As this is a new year I, like just about everyone, have been re-examining my relationship to my health. Over the last year, I’ve personally been going through a bit of a health renaissance. During the second U.K. lockdown last year, I realised that I had quite a negligent relationship with my health. I had and always have had a really strong connection to my ambitions. I’m happy to spend many hours by myself working away at personal goals. I can drive myself pretty hard and as a result at the start of 2021, I was not at all in a good way. I felt burnt out and frustrated at the world around me. I felt cursed to find failure wherever I looked and the pandemic having at that point taken a year of my life didn’t help. I realised something needed to change in my life and it needed to change then and there.
I thought about a lot of things and realised that I hadn’t been prioritising my health at all or as I put it in my journal on the 3rd of January 2021 ‘It has been the great failure of my earlier 20’s to prioritise my ambition over my health.’ It occurred to me that the pursuit of ambition was futile without first establishing daily healthy habits to keep one feeling energised and upbeat. So I started to look after my health. Started with simply doing 10 push-up’s a day and now I’ve got a whole routine. I’ve been feeling healthier and happier ever since.
The reason I’m telling you this is because health is SO important in the pursuit of any ambition or goals you have for the future. Putting your health and wellbeing at the centre of your existence will improve every facet of your life. Getting a good nights sleep, eating well and exercising will give you the energy you need to take on the world and really pursue your ambitions to the fullest. Take it from me, I’ve never looked back.
Health, however, is not only something that you do on your own. As it turns out being healthy is a communal activity and in order to have a rounded healthy life, it’s good to develop a healthy social life. The more you engage with others socially the more your body undergoes some very healthy processes. Would you believe that socialisation improves your mental health, confidence and self-esteem, it increases your quality of life, it reduces blood pressure, it boosts immunity, increases brain health and even promotes a sense of purpose.
Have you ever heard of the Roseto Effect? It’s something I came across recently. In Roseto, Pennsylvania, USA there was living an Italian American community and from the years 1954 to 1961, there was not been a single heart attack in the town. ‘Well they must be a real health-oriented community’ you think to yourself. Not really. This was a town in which the residents when they ran out of milk or soft drinks, would often drink wine “with seaming abandon”, they commonly smoked cigars rather than cigarettes and liked to eat meatballs and sausages fried in lard with hard and soft cheeses. ‘Well, they must have all exercised a lot. I mean, sort of, the men worked in slate quarries, if you like, and would all too commonly contract illnesses from the gasses and the dust.
“The community,” said Dr Stewart Wolf, the man who studied the phenomena and coined the term ‘The Roseto Effect’, “Was very cohesive. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. Houses were very close together and everyone lived more or less alike.” He made the link that the reason Roseto was heart attack free was because of decreased stress levels.
However, after 1961 things started to change. As the town became more Americanised and as the Italian community became more fragmented and culturally diluted the stress levels started to rise and so too did the town’s rate of heart attacks.
‘Ok, so, thank’s Jasper, that’s a very long-winded way of saying that socialisation helps to relieve stress. That’s not exactly rocket science.’ True, condescending inner-voice masquerading as a patronisingly imposed reader’s thought process, but I bet you didn’t know that the W.H.O. (World Health Organisation) has dubbed stress as the “Health epidemic of the 21st Century”. Stress kills more human beings than anything else on planet earth.
‘What?’ Yep. ‘Really?’ Yep. ‘How?’ Inflammation. ‘That’s not very helpful.’ Inflammation is your bodies response to pain. You have two types of pain, ‘Step-on-a-lego-god-that-hurts-pain or Acute Pain’ and ‘I’ve-been-leaning-over-this-computer-for-six- months-now-and-my-back-won’t-shut-up-about-it-pain or Chronic Pain’. Your body responds to pain through a process known as Inflammation which is an extremely complex reaction but can probably be best described as after twisting your ankle it swells. This swelling process happens in response to most injuries and that’s generally a good thing when it comes to acute pain but in response to chronic pain, it starts to become an issue. When inflammation takes place in your body over long periods of time it starts to put serious pressure on your immune system and actually dampens its capability making it more likely you’ll develop harmful diseases as well as making it easier for your body to develop cancers. All pain is a subjective experience and it is increased by anxiety and stress.
On top of this when you are stressed your body releases cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine and these are some of the effects that have on your body. The cause your heart to beat faster and raises your blood pressure which over time causes hypertension. It causes the endothelium or your blood vessels inner lining to get sticky and your arteries start to clog. It makes it difficult for your stomach to process foods badly and also makes you crave comfort foods leading to weight gain, which is married to health problems in and of itself. It can also give you acne, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating and irritability.
I live in London. As in many cities, life here is fast-paced and demanding. The rent is high and people have to work hard to afford that rent. That is stressful. As a result, there are fewer occasions to socialise. Isolating and stressful. I’ve found that the result of this means that the quality of ones social life is extremely important and having the ability to see friends and go to social events is a crucial part of how I manage my stress in a big metropolitan city.
Having a healthy social circle in these kinds of metropolitan environments is not easy. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t struggle to make those connections for one reason or another. That’s why we do what we do at Hub Sense. We want to give you the tools to create strong social environments. As a part of healthy living, it is so important to have a strong social circle. If you can find and build a community of friends who live near you that you can see on a regular basis your stress levels will be significantly lower and you’ll be able to keep whatever passion or drive brought you to where you are alive and well. Having a strong network of friends around you can make such a difference to your health over a lifetime.
If you feel you want to improve your social circles, see what you can find on our app. We’d love to see you at your happiest and healthiest by connecting you to the healing power of Community.