Recently, I had a dear friend approach me about the importance of community. She asked me how a community, or lack thereof, has an impact on health.
The Correlation of Feeling Good and Living Longer
Dan Buettner has studied Blue Zones around the world, which are areas that contain more centenarians than other places on the planet. He found that people who had a sense of purpose tended to have greater longevity. This purpose was typically not grandiose; it was a task that they performed that contributed to their community. There is even research by the World Health Organization that links ‘feeling good’ to living longer.
Oxytocin is the hormone of connection. Many people know it as a hormone produced during and after childbirth and while breastfeeding. It is also a hormone that is produced with touch, especially from a loved one. And it’s not just sex or cuddling that increases the hormone; a simple hug can also increase oxytocin levels.
The serotonin in our brain increases when we have human interactions and deep conversations. Many people have heard of serotonin, as it is the brain chemical that the Prozac family of drugs works to increase. It is estimated that up 95% of serotonin receptors are in the digestive tract and only 3-5% are in the brain. Yet this important chemical affects mood, sleep, and memory. Simple ways to increase it are deep conversations, exercise, sex, and healthy digestion.
It is important to remember the benefits of having a community. Just know that this community is not formed overnight. It takes time to build and strengthen over time, so start with the small things now. Start the journey to building your purpose and place in life outside of work. Your mood and health will thank you for it!