Many of us are interested in self-care to optimize our personal health and extend our lives. But the best thing we can do for ourselves isn't focused on self--it's connection to family and community.
Here are two TED talks [Susan Pinker, Amy Yotopoulos] on the subject. I've made this point in my own aging blog [one, two]. (You can read the evidence from diverse original sources linked from my blog.) Social connections have a bigger effect on your longevity than smoking or obesity.
It's useful information, yes. And--if we absorb the deep message--it also changes the way we think.
- Our health is very closely linked to the people around us. Is this through hormones and mirror neurons? Is there a transpersonal component. Scientific studies have tried to debunk the idea that you can heal someone through prayer, and they keep tripping on embarrassing positive results. Can the good will of people around us contribute directly to our health?
- It underscores the ways in which the American culture (rugged individualism, libertarian emphasis on self-will, weakening family ties and pushing us into isolated lives) has undermined our health and wellbeing.
- This is evidence against the prevailing evolutionary view that competition individual-vs-individual is the only significant force of natural selection. (Perhaps this is too esoteric and heady for this space--please forgive me--it's a focus of my personal research mission.)
A lot of us need help and encouragement to reach out through discouraging social norms, risk rejection, and make contact. Others have no trouble being social, but get embarrassed if sharing becomes too intimate. And so many, many of us whose leadership in the community would be most wise and powerful have shied away from leadership because " mostly because there are others so willing to do it badly.