By: Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” ~ Nelson Mandela (on Forgiveness)
Longitudinal studies in Alameda and Tecumseh, as well as in Scandinavia and Japan, have clearly established a relationship between social connection and health.
People who are socially disconnected or isolated are between two and five times more likely to die from all causes compared to matched individuals who have close ties with family, friends and community.
According to those same studies, people who are connected have more positive health outcomes than those not so connected. These studies have established beyond reasonable doubt that social connectedness is one of the most powerful determinants of our well-being. The more integrated we are with our community, the less likely we are to experience colds, heart attacks, stroke, cancer, depression and premature death of all sorts.
That said, while we know the value of social connectedness, it’s not always easy. People and situations can be messy and hurtful. Therefore, being truly socially connected requires that we practice forgiveness, even when someone has not asked for it. Nelson Mandela gave us an unparalleled example of forgiveness when he was freed from an undeserved 27 years in prison. While this is an extreme example of forgiveness, it is an attitude to which we can aspire.
This week, practice forgiveness and compassion – you’ll be healthier and happier for it in the long run. Live long. Live well!