THE VILLAGE EFFECT
By Jo Strausz Rosen
A few years ago, I was fortunate to meet the fabulous Brené Brown, PhD, MSW at a convention. She told me, “Connection is the reason we are here. “She went on to demonstrate in personal stories that nothing lasts forever, but this is the reason we must cherish each moment we have together.
I think we can all agree that one of the best cures for feelings of anxiety is getting out of the house, meeting people, and doing things for yourself and for others. Simple conversations with strangers are reminders that we are all going through life together – this commonality bonds us to each other and often brings comfort and joy.
Author, Matthew J. Hall wrote, “The Human Condition is a Terminal Illness.” He maintains and teaches that if we can share our own unique experiences and our feelings, good or bad, with friends and loved ones, we are all better off. “
Social contact is a biological need. We are a social species who thrive on eye contact, handshakes, and hugs. We experienced this loss during COVID and many people posted on social media and wrote stories in the news that social isolation is the public health risk of our time. If we have fewer people to lean on, we don’t do as well.
“Going out in the world, meeting strangers, shaking hands, sharing connections, even a random high five about a good news story releases oxytocin, increases trust and lowers our own stress,” according to Canadian journalist and psychologist Susan Pinker, who studies loneliness. She wrote the book – The Village Effect, How Face-to-Face Contact Makes us Healthier and Happier.
The Rolling Stones reminded us to let ourselves be known… “We all need someone; we can lean on…. And if you want it, you can lean on me. “
So, get out there for a walk in the fresh air, smile at your postman, ask your waitress if she’s enjoying a good day. Call a friend and ask how they are, then listen to their problems and share your own with them. Social integration heals us and even predicts how long we will live. Those of us who have a circle of friends and families to rely on live happier and live longer. Expand your circle, make your life more social.
Scientists have studied that women live an average of 6-8 years longer than men because we are more social. What are we doing right? JSL residents and many of the loving women I know are seeking out Mahjong games, playing canasta, joining knitting circles, attending exercise classes, baking with the children and grandchildren, hosting Shabbat dinners with extended family, talking on the phone and reaching out. Social isolation is a public health risk. Whatever your gender, find some friends and get to know your neighbors who can be a lifeline for those who are alone. Close relationships are top predictors of long life.
Push yourself to prioritize relationships. Make new friends, cultivate face-to-face moments. Susan Pinker reminds us, “Friendships create a biological forcefield against disease and decline. Face to face relationships release a cascade of neurotransmitters. Like a vaccine – it’s so good for you.”
Build connections in your village and sustain these. It helps us to stay around longer and live happier lives.