It is a common default in the wellness industry that exercise and nutrition are often the 2 primary disciplines that are most immediately referenced as critical in health, longevity and building immunity. Whilst exercise and nutrition are important, secrets from the world’s longest- lived population in The Blue Zones, reveals 9 evidence-based common denominators attributing to people from these areas having the highest life expectancy in the world and the greatest number of people living to 100 years old.
Interestingly, 3 of these 9 denominators link to human connection- namely that of:
- Belonging– to a faith-based community (irrespective of denomination) and attending a gathering 4 times per month can increase your life expectancy by 4 – 14 years
- Loved ones coming first– keeping aged family close or in the home, committing to a life partner and time and love invested in children significantly lowers mortality and improves disease rates
- Right Tribe– choosing or being born into social circles that support positive and healthy behaviour (happiness is contagious!)
These 3 pillars accumulate to the vital role that community plays in health and longevity. A recent study conducted by researchers at Penn State, West Virginia and Michigan State Universities and published in Social Science and Medicine, revealed ‘the strong positive contribution of social capital to life expectancy within communities … places with residents who stick together more on a community or social level also appear to do a better job of helping people in general, live longer.”
The key to this is the connected component of community. We may feel that living in a densely populated metropole is a ‘community’ however many residents are deeply lonely. This is because community is not purely a factor of number of people, but needs to have the activation of engagement, meaning, kindness, love and fellowship. This was further supported by the study with ‘another interesting finding (was) that lower population density, or living in more rural areas, is associated with higher life expectancy. Arguably, whilst rural areas may have fewer people per square meter, their sense of community, reliance on each other and communal dependability for survival of the collective, is greater.
One of Made To Thrive’s most important pillars to longevity and building a healthy immune system is that of Community. Building, tapping into and relying on a community is mutually beneficial. In giving, one receives as much gratification and ‘love return’ as in receiving. Why not try one of the following:
- Whilst lockdown in some countries may not enable us to bless a neighbor with a batch of freshly baked biscuits, what can you do to touch the heart of someone in your street or area where you live? Could you let them know when you’re popping to the shops and ask them if you could get them anything whilst you’re out and about? Could you share some fresh garden produce that you’ve grown, with a neighbour?
- Could you offer to read a book to a person who is hard of sight or an elderly person who is confined to a convalescing home? Even in times of social distancing, reading to another person via a zoom call can be a wonderful treat as they get lost in a story, receive the gift of time, love and ‘presence’ of another.
- What about buying an extra loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter on your next grocery shop, making some sandwiches and handing these out to homeless or displaced people you see in your community?
- Make meal time with the family a sacred time of togetherness. No screens or interruptions but pure gratitude for the time together, the nourishment of the food and the laughter in reviewing the day or sharing reflections. A useful practice is for each family member to note 3 things they are grateful for and 1 item they are proud of for the day.
- Never a nice job, but if you’re walking in the park and see that someone else has not had the courtesy to pick up after their dogs, could you rise above and help clean the area leaving it for others as you would like to find it?
- Start a book or reading club (or a recipe club, laughter club!) with a small community of like-minded people. The opportunity to share insights and debate articles or topics stimulates a learning prospect and affords engagement with a collective. This can be done online too!
- Could you challenge yourself to one random act of kindness a week? Ask the cashier at your favourite café, to ring up and pay for a coffee for the next person in line- even if you may not know them?
- How about smiling, greeting and warmly looking a fellow citizen in the eye as you pass them on a walk?
- Think of all the many people who have played a role in your life and in shaping who you are today. Thank them.