A growing body of evidence suggests that a strong support system and positive interactions with others is a key factor in recovery from illness.
An intriguing and important aspect of the healing process relates to our sense of connection to other people. This works on two levels, firstly the relationships we have with close friends and family and secondly the relationships we have with our wider communities.
At first glance it may seem somewhat trivial to suggest that there is any link between ill health and our friendships and relationships but this factor is actually emerging as an important indicator when it comes to who is more likely to heal and who isn’t.
There are many studies that have found that people who have more positive social connections tend to live for longer. People who are less sociable and especially those who are isolated have a higher mortality rate than normal from any kind of disease or illness including cancer.
It seems that it is the quality of your friendships and connections that is what’s important and not the actual number of friends and acquaintances. The amount of involvement a person has in social activities in the wider community also counts.
The Value of Social Interaction
So how may a good quality of social interaction and social support contribute to better health? The obvious answer is that being able to share your worries with a trusted friend provides some sort of emotional relief – feelings are not kept inside where they may go round and round endlessly in the mind. A good level of social support may help to lower your levels of distress and worry and thus help you to cope better with an illness.
Positive interactions within the wider community can help you feel your connectedness to the outside world in general. It can serve to remind you that we are all the same and that all kinds of people go through difficult life experiences.
On another level giving something back to the world in someway results in increased self-esteem. Whether you volunteer formally or just use your interactions outside your social circle to spread positivity or compassion, giving something back positively is a powerful way to maintain your mental health and possibly your physical health.
It’s important to remember that some people function very well and very happily without the need for lots of social interaction. Some individuals do not feel ‘lonely’ when they are alone. If this is the case and this is a long term pattern that has always worked for you then the chances are you may not be affected in the same way a person might do who is lonely in the true sense of the word.
However if you have a chronic illness, would like more positive social interaction and you feel well enough it may be worthwhile pushing yourself a little to see if increased contact with others makes you feel better in general. Developing social ties by volunteering, joining a club or spiritual group of any denomination that appeals to you could be beneficial.
If you are ill, pushing yourself in this way may feel like too much of an effort and that is understandable. Feel free to contact my office for any level of support you may need.
The bottom line is that positive interaction with others seems to be a factor in recovery and it may just help you to maintain good health and ultimately live for longer.
Is your support system the most important asset in your journey toward health?