W8less Week 6: Stay Connected
The final week of the W8less 40-Day Challenge is here and the focus now changes to get connected to those around and keeping those connections going in order to help you on your journey going forward. Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered some questions around why connections are so important in maintaining your general health and wellbeing.
Connection isn’t something you normally associate with weight loss or wellbeing programs. Why is this a W8less ‘brick’?
How connected you are to other people might not be something to which you give much thought but it’s every bit as important as every other Foundation Brick in the W8less Challenge. Even if you eat well, stay active and get great sleep, if you’re disconnected from other people or socially isolated, your health will suffer. In fact, loneliness is as risky to your health as smoking and twice as bad as obesity!
Loneliness literally breaks your heart. It causes the production of inflammatory chemicals and stress hormones which cause damage and lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. Connecting with someone makes your heart sing and floods your body with chemicals that encourage health. Without it, cells get old faster and your health suffers.
What exactly does connection mean?
A lack of connection, or loneliness, occurs when there are unfulfilled intimate and social needs. An example of this is an elderly person in a retirement home. They will be surrounded by people, so not experiencing social isolation, but if they haven’t made friends and aren’t visited by family, they are likely to be very lonely.
Loneliness can affect you at any age or at any time. The naturally introverted won’t need as much connection as the naturally extroverted will, but we all need to feel connected to someone. This doesn’t necessarily mean knowing lots of people or having hundreds of connections on social media. Connection is feeling that you are a part of someone’s being, or perhaps that their happiness and wellbeing is connected to yours. This means that it’s possible to feel lonely or disconnected even when you’re surrounded by people.
What can you do to feel more connected?
- Nurture real life relationships: It’s much more difficult to have a real connection with our online and social media friends. Making time for face to face meetings allows us to communicate completely with another human being.
- Be more physically intimate: Physical intimacy stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin which makes us feel connected to the recipient of our embrace. Oxytocin influences the production of our reward driving neurotransmitter dopamine, so it’s possible that when you crave chocolate or chips, what your brain is really asking for is physical touch. This hormonal response is triggered in our pets too, so don’t forget to hug them and make both of you feel good.
- Be present: Turn off the TV or stop reading the paper when you’re with other people. Engaging with someone either through touch or conversation, connects you to them. This opportunity is lost if your mind is elsewhere.
- Feel loving: Fascinating research is being conducted on the subject of heart rates and how we influence people around us. Studies have shown that people in close proximity, such as couples sleeping, a mother and her infant, or individuals in the same mood, develop the same heart rate. Focusing on feeling calm and loving towards the people around you, helps them to feel calm and loving towards you.
- Don’t give up: It’s easy to become disconnected with our hectic lives and the ever increasing number of electronic ways to shut ourselves off. Ask yourself how connected you feel and if the answer isn’t very positive then start working on it now.