Your cells love a good con­ver­sa­tion


SOME­TIMES it’s nice to sim­ply take some time alone with your thoughts, to en­joy some re­fresh­ing soli­tude.

Then you’re ready to head back out into the world, to re­con­nect with peo­ple.

As well as time alone, it seems like our cells get health­ier with peo­ple con­tact, and de­cline when we be­come too iso­lated from our com­mu­nity.

One of the ear­lier stud­ies about the im­pact of con­nec­tion on health was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a co­he­sive im­mi­grant com­mu­nity in the US.

Now known as the Roseto Study, it was trig­gered when a physi­cian no­ticed the mem­bers of a nearby closeknit im­mi­grant com­mu­nity, Roseto, were less sus­cep­ti­ble to chronic dis­ease than other com­mu­ni­ties de­spite be­ing smok­ers and in­dulging in un­healthy food. Re­searchers con­cluded their com­mu­nity con­nec­tions boosted their health more than smok­ing and what they ate un­der­mined it.

This was about 50 years ago and al­though in some re­spects we’re more closely con­nected (through so­cial me­dia), it seems eas­ier than ever to iso­late your­self from the peo­ple you live amongst.

Per­haps you live alone, have re­tired or don’t work, or you’ve moved to a new area where you don’t yet know any­one.

Para­dox­i­cally, it can be eas­ier to iso­late your­self in the more densely pop­u­lated ar­eas, and much harder to live as a her­mit fur­ther away from the towns.

For ex­am­ple, if you live in a ru­ral cor­ner of the val­ley you’ll most likely know who your neigh­bours are; in a large block of apart­ments, though, it’s all too easy to re­main a stranger to those liv­ing close by.

With­out reg­u­lar in-per­son peo­ple con­tact you can be­come vul­ner­a­ble to men­tal health prob­lems like de­pres­sion; a men­tal health dis­or­der which, cru­elly, makes it even harder to re-con­nect and cre­ates its own form of pu­n­ish­ing soli­tary con­fine­ment.

It turns out that our cells love a good con­ver­sa­tion, with an­other per­son, face to face. Some­how, just hav­ing a ‘how’s the weather’ chat ac­tu­ally boosts your health.

There’s a limit to this, of course, and it’s true that con­tact with other peo­ple can bring ten­sion.

When that hap­pens it’s time to take time out, en­joy some soli­tude and recharge your en­thu­si­asm for peo­ple con­tact.

Once you’ve had a lit­tle time alone the best thing you can do for your health is get back out there and talk­ing with peo­ple, in per­son.

“Peo­ple who need peo­ple” re­ally do re­main health­ier, both men­tally as well as phys­i­cally.

Just hav­ing a ‘how’s the weather’ chat ac­tu­ally boosts your health...

Ol­wen An­der­son is a natur­opath and coun­sel­lor. www.ol­we­nan­der­

LEFT: Peter Faux, Dar­lene Wil­loughby, Mar­lene Wil­liams and Brenda Shelly get ready to bowl. RIGHT: Eva, 4, Joshua, 3, and Ruby, 4, at Kirra ahead of the Kite Fes­ti­val.

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