Researchers estimate that 40% of Americans feel lonely. That’s remarkable, considering that we’re more connected than ever. Unfortunately, there is some evidence suggesting that the kinds of connections we’re seeking are not the kinds of connections we need. Most of us are actively engaged in some form or another of social media, but researches have recently discovered that the more time a person spends on social media, the more likely it is they will also experience a depressed mood.
Pope St John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body reminds us of Genesis’ exhortation, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). Time and again, modern research shows us how true that statement is. Work by Harvard primatologist, Robert Sapolsky, in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, reveals that if we neglect our need for real, meaningful, intimate connection with others, the resulting loneliness can compromise our health (and ultimately, even kill us) via a 4 step process. 1. Poor social support causes chronic psycho-social stress. 2. Chronic psycho-social stress causes the chronic activation of our bodily stress responses. 3. This causes the suppression of the immune system and the activation of the body’s inflammatory response. 4. Thus we become more vulnerable to both infectious disease and inflammatory illnesses.
Of course, the reverse is also true. The more we intentionally cultivate healthy, intimate connections with others the stronger our social supports become resulting in lower psycho-social stress levels, which leads to increased immunity and lower inflammatory responses in the body which ultimately makes us more resistant to infections and inflammatory illnesses.
Sure, we’re all busy, but some time today be sure to take some time to turn off the computer, step away from your work, and connect with the people you love and who love you in return. It could be the best thing you do for your health all day.
For more information on creating the kinds of relationships that help you be healthier in your body, mind and spirit, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts! Making Peace with Difficult People.