Right now, I’m obsessed with a new book I’ve been reading, called Younger Next Year.
It’s written by a holistic doctor and his 72 year old patient, and it talks in detail about all we need to do– physically, mentally, emotionally– to live well (let me say that again: to live WELL) into our nineties and perhaps even beyond.
Some of the secrets of the book are not surprising, although I’ve never quite heard them discussed in this way before. They include things like exercising six days a week, strength training to protect bone density and preserve balance, and refusing to eat food you know is terrible for you (buh-bye, french fries).
However, the third part of the book, which I am still plowing through, has shocked me.
Because it reveals something incredible about the need for community support, not just to be happy, but to actually SURVIVE.
And it’s got the science to back it up.
You see, it turns out that we have a whole separate part of our brain– called the limbic brain– that was designed precisely to allow us to survive, and thereby evade extinction, by functioning well in groups. Groups offered us protection, shared food and shelter, warmth, and comfort in tough times back when we were all Neanderthals.
And those who didn’t have group support? Without the regular fix, their bodies got the message that they were likely to die sooner!
In modern times, the way that this has translated to our health is that without community support in our lives, our bodies and minds decay far more rapidly as we age. No joke, the studies show this repeatedly.
In other words, we MUST create healthy support structures as we approach middle age, or we will die before our time.
Yes, it’s that drastic.
That’s how much community matters to your well-being.
All this has gotten me thinking about how many of my clients have been complaining lately about the lack of social contact and community they’re finding in their lives right now. Some blame social media, some blame crazy work schedules, but whatever the excuse, something serious is missing, and they know it.
And so today, I’m offering you four tips that truly just might extend your life. Here’s four ways to build a support network and find community for the long haul.
1) Get off social media and get live!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as huge a fan of Facebook as anyone, but it needs to be said that Facebook is no substitute for face-to-face connection. I can keep up with my best girlfriends 24/7 online, but that’s still nothing compared to a late girls’ night over wine and a great meal.
We all have people we know we need to see more often in person than we do. Resolve today to reach out to one of them in your life, and make plans to meet up one-on-one.
2) Join a cause you care about.
A great example of this is the NYC Dads Group, an organization dedicated to stay-at-home fathers to which my husband belongs. The organization is committed to ending the stereotype of the distant and/or bumbling incompetent dad, and has the media chops to prove they’re making a difference. They also provide tremendous support to dads in NYC and around the country.
Since we became parents a little over two years ago, we’ve met some of our now closest friends (both individually and as a couple) as a result of my husband’s participation in this group– none of whom we knew before.
Committing to a cause you care about gets you in the same room with people with whom you’re already on the same page. That right there is a ready-made community.
3) Get your fine tushy out of the house, doing a physical activity you love, with others.
The most successful communities I know and am a part of originated with physical activities that I loved to do– yoga being my primary choice. The yoga studio I joined nearly twelve years ago has brought me some of the closest friendships of my life.
If you’re at a loss for how to find community, join a physical group activity that matters to you. Sweat with others, and break bread with them afterwards, and presto: instant community. It’s a great way to make new friends for the long haul.
4) Stay connected with your core people, for life.
I’ve been known to say that while we all need big communities and we all need our tribes of like-minded individuals, we also need a few (and only a few) people with whom we know we can say anything, and be loved unconditionally.
I have two girlfriends, and only two, who I count as those people– they were the maids of honor at my wedding, and I’ve known them for 20 and 12 years respectively. We all live in different parts of the country, and while I can go for several months without speaking to them, when we pick up the phone, it’s like nothing has changed. And when we’re face-to-face– well, it’s a shot of something so good that it lasts me for months thereafter.
My bet is you know who those people are in your life. I also bet you don’t talk to them or see them as often as you want to. If you’ve got core people in other parts of the country, you need to be making an effort to see them at least once a year, and preferably more than that. Get on it. Today.
Your community and your support network can save your life. Don’t forget it.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear from you as to how your community has changed YOUR life.
Wishing you a great week of love and support.
PS. Speaking of groups, in the next few days I’ll be announcing a tremendous group coaching program that runs the length of the summer.
If you’re interested in ending struggle in your life, and making your life easy (and maybe even miraculous), you will not want to miss this one!
Keep your eyes peeled for more details.
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