Positive Steps To Creating A Happier You

By Phyllis Strupp, Contributor

For Valentine’s Day, skip the candy and have lunch with a friend. As far as our brains are concerned, love is the best medicine and friends are sweeter than sugar. Eye contact, fun, listening, sharing, smiles, touch and trust forge strong social bonds that promote long lives and healthy brains.

The toxic trio of smoking, sitting and sugar are frequently vilified as health hazards. But when it comes to brain health, there’s one thing worse than these three combined: Chronic social isolation, now considered the biggest public health problem in America.

Don’t Isolate, Get Involved

A major study by the University of Connecticut found that “isolation is a major source of psychosocial stress and is associated with an increased prevalence of vascular and neurological diseases.” Loneliness promotes chronic, low-grade inflammation that undermines three major biological systems–including the immune system–that protect and support brain health. Conversely, prosocial hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin reduce inflammation and pain.

In a study sponsored by the AARP, researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed a group of about 2,000 Americans ages 50 to 80. More than a third of seniors in the poll said they felt a lack of companionship at least some of the time, and 27 percent said they sometimes or often felt isolated; most of the people who said they lacked companionship also felt isolated, and vice versa.

If you are looking to make some new friends, participate in the arts. Regular visits to museums, art galleries, the theater, concerts and exhibitions are linked to a longer life, according to an analysis of data from more than 6,000 adults ages 50-plus in England over a 12-year period. The English Longitudinal Study of Aging findings also stress the importance of watching live performances (arts activities).

Sing, Dance, Write

Even better, try some active participation in the arts through singing, dancing, acting or writing. Screen-based activities with television, movies, and computers or smartphones are more likely to promote loneliness than combat it.

Either as an audience member or artist, the shared experience of participating in the arts gives you something interesting to talk about with your friends, and even make new friends. This activity boosts your brain’s energy level, making memory and other routine tasks more efficient.

At John Knox Village, opportunities abound for rewarding engagement with other people and the arts.

For Valentine’s Day and every day, be a good friend to yourself—and your brain—and enjoy the gift of togetherness.

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About the author

Brain Wealth founder Phyllis T. Strupp, MBA, is an award-winning author and brain training expert, speaking to audiences around the U.S. on how brains and lives can get better with age. Her 2016 book, “Better with Age: The Ultimate Guide to Brain Training,” introduces a pioneering approach to “use it or lose it,” based on successful outcomes from her 10 years of experience in brain coaching. Visit Phyllis’ website: www.brainwealth.org

John Knox Village is the only Life Plan Retirement Community in Florida to offer Phyllis Strupp’s exclusive Train Your Brain® workshops. To learn more about the program and any upcoming Train Your Brain events contact the Life Enrichment Department at (954) 783-4040.

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