The first three pillars of health give us plenty to think about. We could focus on Nutrition, Toxin Removal, and Stress Management for years. But the fourth pillar of health is so very important that it can sometimes dwarf the other three. In fact, having this pillar strongly anchored in your life can compensate for the first three pillars being rather weak. Conversely, the lack of the fourth can make the first three pillars all the more critical. The fourth pillar of health is the most overlooked by far. This fourth pillar is: the sense of belonging you have when you feel connected to others. It is the sense of community that occurs when you know your neighbors and have close friends and/or family nearby. It is the feeling that you matter in life. And it is CRUCIAL to good health.
The other day I noticed a blog post by a good friend of mine titled, “Are you Lonely? You’re Not the Only One.” I read it immediately knowing my next post would be on that very topic. As I read Mrs. Green’s blog, I couldn’t help but have memories flood back of my most painful, lonely years and doing almost everything she did during her own lonely times. You must read it. It so elegantly summarizes what I would like to say:
How many women have gone shopping just to interact with another human being? How many people feel like they need to get OUT THERE more and make some new friends? How many of you have ever silently wished that you had someone to go to lunch with, or a friend you could call when life sucker-punches you?
The lack of connection many people face today is often detrimental to their health because people don’t realize that it’s a problem. People know you need good nutrition – and that toxins are bad for you – and even that stress is a health-drain, but most people have no clue that having close relationships is VITAL for good health.
Loneliness impairs immune function and increases inflammation. It doubles the risk of premature death in the elderly. And sadly enough, surveys show that loneliness has doubled since the 1980’s.
Loneliness is stigmatized. Admitting you feel lonely makes you feel vulnerable and weak. Even worse, the lonely feeling that creeps in even when you’re surrounded by others leaves you feeling confused and like an ingrate for all the things you do have.
From personal experience gathered from years of isolating myself due to health issues, I know that isolation and loneliness are classic signs of depression. In fact, depression leads to isolation and loneliness which leads to further depression. It’s like a circle of sadness that feeds upon itself.
If you want to learn how to get off the cycle, I wrote several chapters in Broken Vessel Restored that can help you understand the causes and cures of both isolation and depression. But in the meantime, focusing on nutrition, detoxification, and dealing with stress can help you feel able to connect with others and make those crucial connections. In turn, these connections can help you focus on improving the other areas of your life – which leads to a positive circle of happiness that feeds upon itself. And isn’t the ability to feel happiness the end goal of good health?