If you’re someone who continually has the support of those around you, it’s hard to imagine your life without those key individuals. Being human means that we are able to express emotion — feeling a wide range of both positive and negative emotions. When you need a shoulder to cry on, who’s there?
Although emotional support makes you feel better in the moment, helping you overcome an overwhelming event or situation, this level of support may benefit you in more ways than one. Here’s why that shoulder to cry on may be more than a place to rest your head and wipe your tears.
The Connection Between Emotional Support and Health
Numerous studies have focused on the connection between social, emotional support and physical health. In fact, this concept has been a key area of focus for the past three decades or so. Throughout the literature, it’s been suggested that those who have a strong, positive support system, experience a decreased risk or mortality.
Emotional or social support often relates to the relationships we build. In many ways, these relationships enhance our quality of life, supporting a positive self-image while supporting psychological and physical health. Although emotional support can target symptoms of anxiety and depression, it’s also believed to boost immune function.
Within one study, it was found that among adults who were suffering from coronary artery disease, those who were socially isolated experienced a risk of cardiac death that was 2.4 times greater than their peers who were socially connected. This association has also been documented regarding hypertension, cancer, healing, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and more.
There’s no doubt that health behaviours, such as a nutritional habits, exercise, and smoking, impact mortality rates — with that being said, social habits appear to influence our health habits. A classic example of this is a spouse, regulating and inhibiting certain behaviours that promote the health of their partner.
In turn, one feels loved and supported. It’s believed that these social ties trigger a sequence of physiological effects, such as reduced blood pressure, as well as decreased heart rate and stress hormone levels. If something was out of the ordinary with your health, those you confide in would also encourage you to seek medical advice and treatment.
How to Improve Emotional Health
Based on the clear connection between emotional wellbeing and physical health, there are ways in which you can improve this aspect of your life. This can be a rewarding experience, which benefits not only your physical health, but your confidence and your flexibility to learn new things. Along with the emotional support you already receive, here are a few additional suggestions.
- Effectively manage stress levels — When you experience chronic stress levels, you not only put a strain on your heart, but rising cortisol levels also take a heavy toll on your emotional and mental wellbeing. Keep a diary in order to release emotional tension, practice deep breathing, as well as mindfulness.
- Do things that positively impact others — Just as you benefit from the emotional support your loved ones provide, it’s rewarding to be there for others as well. This will support the positive relationships you currently have and help you build self-esteem.
- Limit computer time — There’s no doubt that computers help us complete numerous useful tasks on a daily basis, however, it’s important to encourage face-to-face interaction. Virtual interaction isn’t as beneficial as real-world, direct contact.
- Join clubs and volunteer — If you’d like to expand your social circle, get out there. Volunteer opportunities are also meaningful and fulfilling. As you meet new, caring individuals, you will increase the level of support in your life.
Who knew — those you rely on to make you feel better, may also be adding extra years onto your life. Now that’s something to celebrate!