Wholeness Healing Today

Longevity Influenced by Caring for Others

“Staying connected with strong and active relationships may help you live a longer, happier life.” (Brody, 2012) We have heard before how our need for social connection is linked to health and longevity. But even more than that, research is showing that those who lack close social ties and intimacy suffer from poor health, higher levels of unhappiness and a greater vulnerability to stress. (Cutler, 2013)

A study published in 1983 by Larry Scherwitz, a psychologist at Baylor University, revealed results that support the importance of social connections and how it relates to increased risk of heart disease. Scherwitz taped conversations of 600 men, a third of them with heart disease. He counted how often each subject used first-person pronouns such as I, me, mine – and found that the higher frequency use of first-person pronouns was linked to having heart disease and an increase in the number of subjects who were most likely to suffer heart attacks. (Brody, 2012)

This very subtle characteristic (or maybe not so subtle with people really caught up in this pattern) is so powerful. The result showing up in studies is that people in loving relationships with spouses or friends were healthier than those lacking this intimacy. This is true even when that latter has healthier living habits. Furthermore, a study by Lisa F. Berkman, an epidemiologist at Yale, found that people who were not connected to others were three times as likely to die over the course of nine years as those with strong social ties. The type of social ties did not matter. It could have been family, friends, volunteer groups, church families, etc. (Brady, 2012)

These social ties are so important that they have more influence on your longevity than a healthy lifestyle. Adding intimate connections to your life along with healthy lifestyles puts you in the category of people who live the longest.

If you find yourself isolated, self absorbed and out of the loop of connecting with others, consider some ways to change this. John Robbins wrote the book, Healthy at 100. (Robbins,2006) He cites the importance of others in our lives. He suggested that we do the following things. First, listen with regard when others talk. Give your time and energy to others. Let others have their way. Do things for reasons other than furthering your own needs. This is interesting as I was watching America’s Got Talent and two psychologists from Rome, Italy brought virtual technology to the show,claiming it would help people get over their phobias and obsessions. Howie Mandel, one of the judges who is open about his own suffering with OCD, was called up to participate in the procedure. He was fitted with virtual glasses and his goal was to “save another person” who was in danger. He had to let go of all his fears and venture into areas that felt unsafe in order to save this person. The premise was, if we are focused on another over ourselves, we may find a way out of our suffering. I haven’t heard Mandel’s long term effects. However, after the experiment was completed, he was proclaiming it to be an amazing moment for himself.

Consider making improvements in your life by putting others first. Make a choice to reach out to be there for others. This may mean being present with others, really listening and hearing them, validating them, and doing things for others because you care. If this feels like too big of a task, pick one thing and begin making changes within your own life as you reach out to put others first. Focusing on others can decrease your suffering and bring about a healthier lifestyle.

Works Cited
Brody, J. E. (2012, March 31). www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/forging-social-connections-for-a-longer-life/.Retrieved from www.seattletimes.com: www.seattletimes.com

Cutler, H. (2013, April 22).https://motivationinspirationandlife.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/coronary-heart-disease-and-self-focused-people/ Retrieved from Motivation, Inspiration and life: www. motivationinspirationandlife.wordpress.com

Robbins, J. (2006). Healthy at 100. New York :Random House.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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