Interpersonal Relationships

In regard to your interpersonal relationships, what do we mean by "social connection" or "social connectedness"? In the broadest sense, it means interacting with other people, such as friends or relatives.

These connections will not be the same in every respect for any two people, although ideally these connections should generate a similar sense of openness, generosity, and goodwill. Although they take work, good relationships are one of our greatest blessings.

Is there anyone who really cares for you, or feels close to you, or loves you, or wants to help you? Is there someone you can confide in? If so, then according to some studies, you may have three to five times’ lower risk of premature death and disease from all causes than those who don’t have these kinds of relationships.1

Perhaps the best known example of the link between social connectedness and health has been seen in Dr. Dean Ornish’s intervention for reversing heart disease. When most people think of this program, they tend to think of low-fat diets, exercise, and meditation. But if you ask Dr. Ornish about the most important part of his program, his answer might surprise you, because he identifies it as interpersonal relationships.2

Dr. Dean Ornish, in his book Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, writes "I’m not aware of any other factor in medicine – not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery – that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and the premature death from all causes than does love and intimacy."3

Jeff Levin, epidemiologist, puts it this way, "…experts have singled out love as foremost among the human emotions capable of promoting and maintaining health and achieving healing."

The Complete Guide to Your Emotions and Your Health, published by Prevention Magazine, says: "It seems something deep inside our cells responds positively when we feel love. Love appears capable of sparking healthy biological reactions in much the same way as good food and fitness."4

Dr. Bernie Siegel, Yale physician and author of the best-selling book Love, Medicine and Miracles, affirms the power of love, "Unconditional love is the most powerful stimulant of the immune system. The truth is love heals."5 Dr. Siegel works with cancer patients to help them experience the blessings of love and other positive emotions.


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