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Stat that Kick My Tail

Stat that Kick My Tail

Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad is a faculty member at Brigham Young University. She along with her colleagues have been studying the connection between social connection and mortality. In one of her projects, their team analyzed 148 studies with over 350,000 participants worldwide.

Here is what she found. “Julianne’s study showed that people with strong social relationships are 50 percent less likely to die prematurely than people with weak social relationships. Even more striking, she found that the impact of lacking social connection on reducing life span is equal to the risk of smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, and it’s greater than the risk associated with obesity, excess alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise.” – from page 13 in Dr. Vivek Murthy’s new book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.

Holy smokes!

In other words, scientific researchers have discovered that the best thing you can do for your health is to build strong, deep connections with other people, and, get this, yourself.

First of all, I cannot recommend more highly Dr. Murthy’s book. It is reshaping my understanding of what truly matters.

Second of all, this above statistic kicked my butt. Maybe it is because we are living in such a strange socially distant time. Maybe it is the fact that I am experiencing the lack of social connection more acutely than ever before. I don’t know.

But a finding like the one above has become to me a compass-like motivator, as well as a clarifying directive for how to build a healthy life and world.

On the motivation front, it has inspired me to, first, work on a healthy relationship with myself. I am working to fight against the perils of isolation and to move toward being comfortable with solitude, reflection and meditation.

Secondly, it has moved me to be more intentional with less people. The fact that I have thousands of Facebook friends doesn’t really mean much during a pandemic (I’m not sure it ever meant much to tell you the truth!). What matters is having people in my life who know they can count on me, and whom I know I can count on.

On the directive front, it has also reinforced the importance of moving past surface knowledge of people and pursuing depth and meaning in relationships. One thing that I am attempting to do is to strategically befriend people who have different perspectives than me. These things include: race, nationality, sexual preference, political ideology, and religious beliefs. I am learning that my understanding of other people and the way they think and live dramatically changes when I do what I can to see things from their point of view.

Like wearing masks – we should be wearing masks, y’all! – we have an opportunity to do our part to be global citizens. We are stuck on this planet together. We might as well figure out ways to get along with each other.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s taught us that our lives are connected to each other whether we like it or not.

The point is not to stop exercising or to start smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. The point is that we have the opportunity to care for one another in big and small ways.

Personally doing what’s best for everyone – that’s one way to stay connected and shine light in the darkness.

To form relationships with neighbors (the people you are connected to geographically) – that’s a second way to be a light.

And finally, to connect to the light – that’s a third, any maybe the most important thing we can do if we want to shine.

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Ned Erickson

Ned is the Founder and Executive Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows, a non-profit dedicated to equipping people to live seamless lives as they grow into the men and women they were created to be. He is the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed novel Clay. He, his wife, two children, dogs, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, and chickens live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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