For the last 7 years, I've worked to improve human health and wellbeing by focusing on better nutrition, vigorous physical activity, sleep hygiene, and stress management.
Turns out I may have been missing the most important determinants of health – the social ones.
Marta Zaraska has written a book that is fun, fascinating, scientifically sound, and socially revolutionary. In Growing Young, she argues that eating well and exercising are all well and good, but spending time with friends, cultivating a positive attitude, and helping others are far more powerful (and enjoyable!) determinants of health.
And, as an added benefit, living an engaged, happy, and meaningful life can certainly cut down on cravings and binges and other self-destructive behaviors.
The research that Zaraska shares on loneliness as a health threat is stunning. And given the current pandemic anxiety and social distancing and lockdowns, I suspect that the long-term health effects of all this isolation may prove as devastating as the immediate physiological harms wrought by the virus.
My biggest takeaway from Growing Young is a reminder that health is not found in individuals, but in collectives. As a health professional, I'm usually working with one client at a time, and getting paid by that person. So it's easy for me to focus all my attention on their individual behaviors: what they're eating, how much they're moving, whether they're meditating or getting sufficient sleep, and all that. This individualistic approach isn't based on science, but on an invisible paradigm of the hero pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Yes, it's great for individuals to improve their diets and lifestyles. AND – the big gains in human (and planetary) wellbeing come from the connections and relationships among us.
And that's really good news, actually. For at least two reasons that I can think of.
First, as Zaraska points out, positive social interactions are highly contagious, in a way that eating broccoli is not. Do a random act of kindness, and others are more likely to do one themselves. (Wait until you hear about the Tim Horton drive-thru line.)
Second, being socially engaged and positive and altruistic feels really good right away. In the moment. You get those squirts of dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin instantaneously, as evolution's incentive to pass on your genes by mating, rearing young, and forging strong social bonds. Contrast that with eating well or exercising, which (at first at least) typically suck in the moment, and give you positive results way down the road.
Also, Zaraska is optimistic that the pandemic, for all its challenges and hardships, may serve the purpose of reminding us of the life-giving and health-affirming value of community. Like Joni Mitchell sings, “You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.” Now that we've been deprived of much of our social life, may we understand its value, and as we move forward, may we prioritize WE over ME. After all, if it's a long, happy, healthy life you're after, taking care of others is the most selfish thing you can do.
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
Growing Young, on Amazon
Looking for Transformational Change?
You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?
That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.
But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, that I'm devoting the next year to mastering it, studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, and then introducing it into health coaching through my trainings.
Right now, I want to triple my coaching practice to get more and more opportunities to do this work. And I'm lowering my fees – a lot – to make it easier for people to work with me.
If you're interested in working with me (and willing to commit to a minimum of 2 months), click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab and I'll get back to you within 3 business days.
You CAN Change Other People!
Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.
What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.
Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.
Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by clicking the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.
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