• Hazelden Renewal Center

Social Integration Will Add Years to Your Life

young adults interacting

Smile and say hello to a random stranger today — social integration and personal relationships lead to longevity. Face-to-face connection releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters that reduces stress, including dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps give you a natural high and may relieve pain.

It’s been found through various long-term studies that the top two predictors of living a long life are social integration and close relationships. Social Integration means interacting with everyone you come into contact with such as the barista, grocery clerk, a stranger, and people in your neighborhood. Close relationships may be the people that you can call if you need a ride or a shoulder to cry on. And your family.

Online interaction does not produce the same results in your body. I was isolated for a long time during my cancer journey, as I wasn’t open to receiving help. This isolation lasted for nearly a year. I am now discovering how detrimental it was to my health to not ask for help — but also to not be open and receptive to love.

The following came out of my aloneness: We all need someone in our life. I believe people who say you should want someone but never “need” them have it all wrong. This attitude is keeping us, especially single people, isolated and disconnected.

We all need someone, a partner or teammate, someone who is in our corner. Someone who will always have our back no matter what life throws at us.

We all need people who will wholeheartedly accept us exactly as we are, warts and all. And that means every inch of us, the good, the bad, the crazy at times, the silly, and the whole unique person we are.

We all need people who will love us unconditionally and not feel the need to change us. People who will give their all to us, allowing us to give our all and best to them.

We all need epic, messy, crazy, laugh until your belly hurts, cry through the beautiful and rough moments…love. We all need people with whom to hold hands, love and pray, and stand united through thick and thin.

We all need to feel a sense of belonging, even if it’s just with one person. We all need people who make us feel authentic, safe, vulnerable, loved, passionate, free, cherished, respected and alive.

We all need people, because love conquers all.

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