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Middletown Transcript
  • Betsy Cross: Share the love — it’s good for you

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  • If you don’t do it in February, you’re just about the only one. Saying “I love you” is all around us this time of year, and that’s a good thing. And not just for the person on the other end of that happy message, but for you as well.
    A growing body of evidence points to significant health benefits of having strong social connections. Harvard Medical School reports, “dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer.” Connecting with others relieves stress, which can “adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation and the immune system.”
    We all know that lunch with a friend is relaxing and fun. A hug from your daughter can make even your worst day better. Now, research shows that these “social relationships are just as important to health as other common risk factors like smoking, lack of exercise or obesity,” according to the New York Times. “Researchers from Brigham Young University found that people who have strong ties to family, friends or coworkers have a 50 percent lower risk of dying than those with fewer social connections. Having few friends or weak social ties to the community is just as harmful to health as being an alcoholic or smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day.”
    If you’re among those who have a loving and supportive family, fantastic friends and maybe even a wonderful group of coworkers, consider yourself lucky and work hard to keep those relationships strong. But, if this is an area you need to work on, there are lots of ways you can actively work to build yourself a strong social network, according to the Mayo Clinic:
    • Volunteer with a cause that’s important to you.
    • Join a gym or take a dance class.
    • Go back to school. Most towns offer inexpensive evening courses as do community colleges and community centers.
    • Get online. Social networking sites, online support groups and bulletin boards specific to a topic that interests you are great ways to “meet” people and to also stay connected to those you already know.
    Take the time to maintain your friendships and family connections or build new ones. Continue your involvement in your community, too. It’s an investment that will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine. So, this month, call a friend and share the love!
    Betsy Cross is director of development for the Natick Visiting Nurse Association, a not-for-profit health care organization providing home care to thousands of people throughout MetroWest, Mass., each year. For more information, call the Natick VNA at 508-653-3081 or visit www.natickvna.org.

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