Day 9: Happiness is a Practice, Not a Destination

Social Connections

There is overwhelming research demonstrating the power of social connections on our well being, and uncovering that our capacity to connect is vital to our health.

One study conducted by Tiffany Field from the University of Miami on the power of touch with premature babies showed remarkable results. In hospitals, premature babies that were intentionally and lovingly touched more often put on 47% more weight. That increase can mean life or death.

National Geographic writer and reporter, Daniel Buettner, spent 5 years traveling the world to uncover the secrets to longevity and a happy life. In his book "Blue Zones" he writes about his findings and identifies four places in the world with the most centurions: Okinawa, Sardinia, Costa Rica and Loma Linda. Scientists found that it wasn't simply good genes that predicted their lifetime; it was lifestyle. Among other things they were active, ate healthy and had a strong sense of community and connection.

Work in social genomics reveals that our histories of social connection or loneliness alters the expression of our genes within our immune system. And as discussed in previous posts, just like the brain is "plastic" and can be shaped positively or negatively by our actions, so can our biology! Your habits of social connection can leave a physical imprint on you. So the more we connect we build that muscle for connection, the more we don't we can lose it.

Facebook, twitter, email, texting and so on, are not the enemies of our social connections; our choices are. Notice the choices you are making. Are you texting out of habit rather than picking up the phone to say hello? Are you checking your email or facebook status while you are at dinner with friends or family. Do you have 600 facebook friends but no friends to call for a Sunday hike or in a time of need. Are you there for others?

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent it with 10 amazing women in my life. I love them and they love me. Yes we do post on each others facebook pages and text; but more importantly we make time in each others lives for face to face interactions and real connection. These relationships have shaped and changed my life. I feel healthier and happier because of our time together.

This week make a date with a friend or loved one. Turn your phone off and be completely present. Notice how good you feel!