Oh my.....this is an article of a different kind.
I've had this topic on my mind for some time now and finally found the time to sit down and gather some thoughts and clinical evidence to help people in realizing what the BIGgest contributor to better health and wellness is. In any given day, I respond to countless questions and sit down in private consultations reviewing health histories, lab values, family diseases, medications, supplements, and the like. However, as I work with an individual, I'm always keenly in tune to something that is more important than any custom therapy or regimen that I could design for them. It's not something that I create and dispense in a bottle, but it far surpasses anything on the pharmacy shelves when it comes to overall health, sense of wellness, and success in achieving a goal. So what is it? (I'm glad you asked)
Actually the question is not, "what is it?"but instead, "who is it?" Humans are complex social creatures often defined by family, language, culture, nationality, religion, race, or perhaps even trade. We are born into some of these groups, but we can choose to join others. Did you know that our PURPOSE is very much intertwined with the people we interact with (or perhaps those we choose not to interact with)? Scientific study results show that a higher level of purpose in life, through our personal associations, is associated with better health, increased participation and productivity, better socioeconomic status, and better outcomes for persons with addiction. Even patients with Alzheimers were reported to have better cognitive function, despite their disease, when surrounded by positive people and purpose. In other words, your social network could be thrusting you forward, or pulling you down. Now hold on, I'm not suggesting that you dump all of your friends, but I am suggesting that you pay attention to those that make you feel joy, strength, positive, at ease, and purposeful about life. This important health contributor alone can make or break you. Literally!
Now let me touch on some specific details and evidence....
Weight Loss Success
When it comes to weight loss coaching, I'm very strategic to cover social networks with an individual. In a published study of over 12,000 people followed for over 30 years, here's what the results showed. "A person's chances of becoming obese increased by 57% (95% confidence
interval [CI], 6 to 123) if he or she had a friend who became obese in a
given interval. Among pairs of adult siblings, if one sibling became
obese, the chance that the other would become obese increased by 40%
(95% CI, 21 to 60). If one spouse became obese, the likelihood that the
other spouse would become obese increased by 37% (95% CI, 7 to 73)" The bottom line is that, those people in your social network can propel you to your weight loss goal, or they can inhibit you in your success. If you want to be successful at weight loss, make sure you have your family and friends on board with you. We all know it's a real drag to watch the family eating pizza and sugar donuts while we're up to our greens in leaf lettuce. So not fair right?
Basic family dynamics can have an overall impact on health. It has been known for many years that marriage increases life expectancy, especially in men. Family stability also helps adolescents avoid poor lifestyle decisions and children in a stable and loving home have a better chance at doing well in their life goals. I've always followed and parented by the standard that "our children only have ONE chance at a happy childhood." If they feel engaged, loved, and a sense of belonging to that family unit, they will do "life" much better. The family circle of influence can be very healthy, or very unhealthy.
There's evidence supporting longer life expectancy in those that regularly attend religious services compared to those who rarely or never do. According to data published in 1999 this can translate into a seven-year difference in life expectancy. This does not mean that private spirituality is not beneficial, but that social group gathering and interaction with others is healthy all the more. Faith and purpose go hand in hand. It's healthy!
If you are a professional, a leader, or in business here's a big secret to success and 'purpose' in what you are doing. Make sure to line up the "who" before you chase the "what". In the book Good to Great, Jim Collin's leading point is that you need the right people on the bus before you decide where to take the bus. People are not your greatest asset. The RIGHT people (your team) are your greatest asset! Real success takes more than just YOU to get where you want to go. Everyone can feel purpose when you're all on the same page and working towards a common goal. It's healthy!
You can ask those in 'my circle' about this personal attribute deep inside me. If I'm in, I'm All-IN. I choose my social network very carefully these days (disclaimer...it wasn't always that way). There's nothing so healthy as being surrounded by personal connections or a 'community' where everyone is genuinely concerned about the group's health, but even more importantly, concerned about each of the individuals that make up the group. If you feel consistently drained by a certain someone(s) inside a circle of influence, then maybe it's time to step back and evaluate the impact on you, your health, and your goals to achieve success. It's healthy to do so!
This is not my typical blog on hormones, supplements, testing, etc. but it is so, so, so important to overall health. If you are working at your best in the physiological areas and missing the link in social and emotional areas, then you're going to be sub-optimal in your quest to achieve better health. Evaluate your purpose today and figure out what, I mean who, is in the benefit column and who is in the deduction column. Hopefully the positives will far outweigh the negatives.
All the best,