The best way to boost your health (Psst...it may not be exercise?!)
Written by: Meg Sharp, Wellbeing Consultant, Cambridge Group of Clubs
Better longevity and quality of life, reductions in risk for cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease… improved mental health including better cognition, creative thinking, optimism, memory, and mood… We never tire of regaling you with how building your muscles, strength, mobility, and stamina will pay off in spades in relation to ALL these things.
What if I told you there’s something that does all that too. Maybe even better:
According to a decades long study, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the key to living a longer, healthier, happier life is Social Fitness. Nurturing positive relationships – more than money, healthy diets, illustrious careers, and exercise, is the key.
The Study’s current Directors, Robert Waldinger and Marc Shulz, advise that like hunting, gathering, and seeking shelter, nurturing relationships is a powerful tool for survival. As such, when we tend to our positive connections, we tend to thrive.
If you’re already overwhelmed with how much “stuff” you have on your plate, take comfort in this fact: not dissimilar to exercise, it’s the quality – vs quantity – of time we spend with people that makes the biggest difference.
Take a moment to think about some key relationships in your life:
- Is there someone you could call in a moment of crisis?
- Who in your circle encourages you to learn, grow, take some chances?
- Equally, is there someone who would benefit from your wisdom and mentorship?
- Do you share romantic intimacy with someone?
- What about emotional closeness? Someone with whom you can share almost anything. Who accepts you as you are. And helps lift your spirits when you’re down.
- And last but not least, is there someone who makes you laugh?
These connections may be personal or professional. And one person may be a source of more than one of these pieces. The people you pictured as you read through the list, and the relationships you have with them, are the keys to living that long, happy life – however, we define happiness.
As with adding exercise to make yourself healthier, look to make small adjustments and additions in order to improve your social fitness.
Start by identifying one relationship you would like to improve. Reach out with a phone call or secure some time together. If you already see them regularly, commit to altering your behaviour to improve the opportunity for connection or growth.
Here are a few tips from us:
- Put your phone away. Turn off your computer screen.
- Give the person your full attention. Lean in. Make eye contact.
- Let go of whatever is/was going sideways with your day and sink into the moment with this one person.
- Listen. Don’t try to be clever, or anticipate what they need, or fix their problem. Listen.
- Be curious. Ask open ended questions.
- Find something you both love to do or talk about. Plan activities around that.
- If it is someone you don’t see regularly, book a specific date to connect again before you leave or hang up. (It’s like exercise, remember? Plan and book your next workout!)
- Let go of the need to be right.
Final thought – also from us: if you can find a form of exercise or movement you like to do together?! Well, that’s a serious win-win.