The other day I saw a bumper sticker that said “Kindness matters more than you think.” I’ll touch upon why that’s relevant to today’s topic of Social Wellness later in this article. But first let’s figure out what Social Wellness is and why it’s one of the Seven Dimensions of Health.
Nowadays we are programmed to believe that in order to be healthy we need to do it all. We need to eat whole grains, not eat any grains ever, eat fruits and veggies, but watch out for fruits that have a high sugar content, and, dear God, make sure your veggies are non-starchy. Oh, and eat nuts and seeds, but don’t you dare eat a peanut because that’s a legume and you should probably stay away from legumes all together because there’s this enzyme that will literally wreak havoc on your entire system causing you to self implode while you sleep.
Speaking of sleep, did you get your eight hours? Or are you biohacking your sleep? Because you really only need four. Speaking of hours, how long did you exercise today? Short, high intensity interval exercises are the only way you should move your body. Never run for a long period of time. Instead, you should be standing or walking all day. Never sit. Sitting will kill you. You’re better off smoking a pack of cigarettes. Speaking of smoking, how are your stress levels? Did you meditate today? I’ve already meditated three hours today. It sets me up for my day so I can accomplish what most people can only accomplish in a week. Then I’ll head straight to the gym, ear phones plugged in so everyone knows I am not there to interact or converse.
Then I’ll make a healthy dinner 100% from scratch because canned soup is poison. I’ll finish with some tea made of herbs I picked from my 400 square foot garden and end the night by reading an entire self help novel. But don’t worry I’m not stressed about how I fit this all in a day, it’s been calculated to the minute - so don’t you dare do anything to disrupt it.
Terrified yet? So am I. Because unfortunately, this is exactly what we believe it takes to be a healthy, validated and successful human. We are so hyper focused on getting it all in and doing it in this picture perfect way so we can look amazing, but deep down we are struggling.
We stare at our phones all day posting selfies and looking at other people posting selfies, meanwhile we don’t have a minute in our day to spare to look up and interact face to face.
We type more than we talk, and we build virtual walls around ourselves because we’re afraid of people seeing us for who we truly are. Our ears are plugged with podcasts and our eyes are filtered with fake renditions of what is supposed to come off as natural beauty. Experts are telling us that our diets need to mimic homo sapiens from 5,000 years ago, yet we feel pressured to do and accomplish more in a day than those beings ever accomplished in a lifetime.
So what is a human supposed to do in order to be in good health? And what can we do to truly be happy, that is, if you agree that health is happiness and being happy is our greatest desire?
Well, as surprising as it may sound, what we need most, and what will ensure our health and wellness will stay in check is to break down the physical and virtual barriers and engage with one another. That’s it.
There’s a famous study, it’s one of my favorites to reference, and it comes from a group of investigators who observed a small community in Roseto, Pennsylvania trying to figure out why the people who lived in this remote area of Eastern Pennsylvania were reporting such low levels of heart disease and high levels of health and longevity.
They stumbled upon a community of cigar smoking, meat eating, fat cooking, red wine and pasta loving Italians. Their diet is what the Paleo/Keto/Vegan world would consider death on a plate. And to be fair, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but for them, it worked.
So how on earth could they report lower heart disease rates and lengthier lives than the surrounding towns and communities? “In short, Rosetans were nourished by people.” They lived together, they took care of one another, they had meals together, they had social gatherings together and they attended religious ceremonies. All together. For a more detailed description on their lifestyle, take a look at this article. You’ll be shocked not only by their diet habits but also the social equality amongst the people. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-mystery-of-the-roseta_b_73260
The generation that followed, started to stray away from these communal gatherings. They were more about keeping to themselves. They were “more Americanized (meaning less close, less modest and less interdependent), they would also become less healthy.” Over the course of thirty years, the people of Roseto became no different in their practices from the surrounding communities. Reports of heart disease and death rates leveled up, and their health suffered just the same.
There are plenty of studies showing the value of community as a determinant of health, but this one is significant because of its location (most others are of villages in Italy, Japan, Greece, etc.), and because of the drastic change that occurred from just one generation to the other. Therefore, we can relate more easily to it. We may have even noticed this type of change from generation distinctions within our own family.
Now, I don’t mean to be a complete downer or pessimist. I’m simply trying to explain the vast importance that needs to be placed on our Social Wellness, as it may be the most important Dimension of Health that will contribute to a longer and healthier life.
It’s fairly clear that the succeeding generations are going in the opposite direction, moving away from valuing community as a determinant of health, and instead, placing more weight on their physical, external attributes.
These days it’s all about how we look, and how we’re perceived, rather than how we nourish our hearts and souls and experience our world through common humanity.
As someone who believes firmly in the Mission and Goals of The Chicks Community, I ask, what can we do to change that?
How can we place more emphasis on breaking down barriers and enjoying the company of others?
That brings be back to my original statement. It starts with kindness. Because it matters more than you think. Caring for your Social Wellness doesn’t mean you need to be a social butterfly, attend every party or know everyone in your town and the next three that surround you. It can mean engaging in a conversation with someone at the coffee shop. Inviting someone who recently moved next door over for dinner. Or gathering a group of friends for a weekly bike ride, and keeping it open to whoever passes by.
The more we dissolve the distinction between each other, the more we put down our guard and recognize that our most essential and vital human need in order to live a healthy and long life is to be loved and accepted by one another, the happier, safer and more accepting this world becomes.
So be kind to someone today. Change the fate of generations to come. You, and they, may just live longer because of it.