Talk to Strangers… It’s Healthy for You!
“Social support has been linked to many benefits for both physical and mental health.” — Wikipedia
Have you ever noticed that when people talk about ‘getting healthy’, they are most likely referring to physical health (food, exercise and removing habits like smoking). While being aware of how we are nurturing our bodies is certainly important, did you know that our mental and spiritual health is just as critical to having a healthy quality of life?
Often overlooked and rarely discussed, the mental and spiritual parts of our lives allow us to relate to others, understand ourselves, cope with the challenges that are part of life, achieve personal fulfillment, feel joyful and purposeful, and many other benefits.
Just over a year ago, I decided to get ‘healthy’. This meant removing all processed food, grains and sugars from my diet, increasing how much water I drank, exercising and getting a good night rest. My body responded by releasing 70 pounds, giving me more energy, allowing me to be more focused and many other benefits. But… I had forgotten about the other two areas of my life. In other words, while I may have looked healthy on the outside, situations kept showing up to tell me that on the inside, I was not as healthy as I could be. So I did what I always do when change is in order… I did some research.
Knowing that our mental and spiritual health is strengthened with relationships with others, I started there. What I discovered is that relationships fall under a broader category called Social Support, and numerous studies confirm that having warm and nurturing social support also provides tremendous physical health benefits.
But first, what is Social Support? It is being part of a supportive social network. It is receiving help from others. It is feeling cared for. Social support is often provided by family, friends, colleagues and within groups we belong to, and each source of support may give us something different which is why it is important to have all of these in our lives.
When we have a high level of social support, we feel accepted, understood and valued. However, low social support often leads to many health challenges including depression and anxiety. Ok, that makes sense since ‘emotional support’ is a big part of social support, however, what else I discovered was rather shocking.
It turns out that people with lower social support are at higher risk for certain diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, have increased pain associated with arthritis, experience more rapid cognitive decline as they age, and they recover slower from certain surgeries than those with high social supports in their life. Wow!
People with higher social support are less likely to get colds and recover faster from them if they do get one. They have stronger immune systems and are in better overall health, regardless of their stress levels.
This led me to take a closer look at my social supports and I realized that, just like adding more leafy greens into my diet, I could use more social supports in my life and took steps to make that happen. I also recognized those areas of my life that were already providing healthy levels of social support and the one that stood out was Women Talk. Not only does this monthly gathering of women feed my mental and spiritual health, I know from comments others have made that they feel that same sense of acceptance, support and nurturing.
If you have been to a Women Talk gathering and heard women share their stories of a life challenge, a painful experience and of celebration and triumph, then you have seen the vulnerability they have expressed. You have witnessed the unconditional emotional support freely offered by the women present. And you have realized how amazing this is, considering most of these women are complete strangers.
By providing a safe place to share our experiences, to be understood and to be valued for who we are, Women Talk is an excellent source for social support. So, if ‘getting healthy’ is on your bucket list, and you want to expand beyond your physical body and be whole-healthy, please accept this invitation to attend Women Talk every last Thursday of the month. Your mental and spiritual health will thank you.
For more information about the monthly WOMEN TALK meeting in Strathmore, including how you may participate by attending or being a Talker, please visit www.WomenTalk.ca/Strathmore or email Darlis at Darlis@downtobusinesssolutions.com