Community IS Medicine: How Community and Connection Facilitates Resilience, by Tony Vernon, HWC, NMC, AMC, MMC
Human beings are built biologically to interact and be social. The level and quality of social interactions may differ from person to person, but the need for community and connection is biologically inherent for humans. Social connections with meaning are essential for human survival, to thrive and to feel good and optimistic.
Social connections are as important as eating a nutritious diet, quantity and quality of sleep, or gaining the benefits from daily exercise workouts. Meaningful, purposeful relationships are immensely powerful, they fuel us and help us to reach our potential, if the right people, and can provide us with emotional resilience and connection.
The Science of Social Connection
The history of human evolution has proven that we have survived and thrived through connection and community support. This is not debatable. The impact of social connections on health has been widely documented in scientific journals.
The longest-running study on happiness, the 80+ year Harvard study on adult development shows very clearly that a loving partner, and close connected relationships with family and friends and community is the key to our happiness and also our longevity.
Significant studies show that a lack of social connections causes stress and health problems including obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and early death. Our connectedness with others is a key component for our mental and emotional health, and resilience.
One study conducted by Emma Seppala, a Stanford University professor, points out that strong connections make us healthier, and happier, and actually increase our longevity of life. Furthermore, it showed good social connections can improve your immune system, and reduce anxiety and depression. The study also showed that social isolation is a major risk factor for early death. It showed clearly an increased risk of mortality among people with a low quantity and quality of social relationships.
Limbic resonance is referred to as a phenomenon that occurs when two or more people share an emotional connection with each other. The experience and sense of mutual understanding and connectedness has a direct, positive impact on the limbic system of the brain, and I believe, the mammalian, human heart too.
Dr. Thomas Lewis, a psychiatrist and author of the book ‘A General Theory of Love,’ writes that limbic resonance is ‘a symphony of mutual and internal adaptation’ whereby mammals become attuned to each other’s inner states and experience communal connection. Limbic resonance occurs when two or more people engage in positive social interactions. It may include an intimate or productive conversation, sharing laughter, enjoying a joke, or having conversations with work colleagues that you feel aligned with. The limbic systems of the individuals become synchronized leading to mutual emotional resonance.
Community – Your Healing & Resilient Building Force at this Time
The world has changed to become incredibly fast-paced with computer work being needed by all who are professional, but we cannot get away from or ignore our biological needs. Hours and hours on a computer working without physical interactions with face to face connections – CANNOT regulate you – you are in isolation.
Numerous case studies have now illustrated that it is hard to recover from trauma, addictions, or depression alone. The heaviness of the difficulty or suffering is amplified and becomes immense, and often overwhelming regardless of how strong-willed an individual is. The symptoms of specific mental health disorders, like depression, become worse when people withdraw, isolate, or try to deal with the symptoms alone. However, if people build a community of like-minded and goal aligned individuals that provide value and security to their life, and not additional stress, they take the road to building a great life and experience connection, enjoyment, emotional resilience and success.
In the book, ‘Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy’, the author Dean Ornish explains the healing power of love and connection. According to Dr Ornish who is one of the world’s leading physicians promoting lifestyle medicine, he is not aware of any other factor in medicine — not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery — that has a greater impact on our quality of life or incidence of illness than human connection. He studied people suffering from heart disease and found out that human connection improves health in all situations. He says, “Anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering, while that which promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.”
Personal Words from Tony Vernon, HWC, NMC, AMC, MMC
As a previous world-class athlete and champion, and also having personally suffered once from serious depression for a 6-month period, I now know it was as much about my quality of relationships, my community of goal aligned individuals that supported me, as well as my will to WIN that caused both experiences.
When I was depressed, I was making a professional career change and therefore changed, and let go of many relationships. It was incredibly hard on me to go through this, as I did not do this in a careful, planned and diplomatic way. I even hurt people I did not intend to, with careless, unconsciously spoken words. I tried to make this change of relationships way too quickly, abruptly and suddenly, and hurt myself and hurt others with my words. Not intelligent or smart.
When I was a world-class athlete and champion I had a team of people around me: a trainer, a coach and many people I loved and trained with daily – to help me to reach my potential. When I was seriously depressed and hurting with daily emotional pain that was so bad I struggled to get out of bed and function as a civil person: I was single, with unresolved family issues, unresolved emotional and business issues, upset with life, without a community of capable, goal aligned individuals. I was hurting and in pain, but I put myself in an isolated, painful place from being unaware, and my character was not strong enough at this time. Again, not smart or intelligent, but I was young, naive and frankly, stupid! I am older and hopefully wiser now, and a stronger character, and hopefully will make less stupid mistakes, but I’m not perfect. I share this personal experience to help you to not suffer like I did, and to help others.
I strongly express: Building a loving relationship, united family and working to build a community with people professionally who are goal aligned, skilled and capable, adds immense value and security to your life. Furthermore, playing a winning game with other winners, making others successful and happy, is fun.
If you are wanting to win in business with these people, they must be physically fit too: to have the endurance, determination and mental abilities that come from working on your health and exercising hard regularly, to be robust, and to handle the competitive arena that winning in the marketplace now is.
This is not therapy, this is an approach that will build your sense of connection, mental health, financial security and ability to be optimistic, resilient and successful like nothing else on this earth. We need each other.