Whether you are currently trying to heal your body from something, or you want to prevent a future grim diagnosis... there is one key ingredient for good health. This is the ingredient of human connection.
If I told you about my diet and lifestyle 6 months ago, you would have considered me the healthiest human alive. My diet consisted of whole, unprocessed organic foods. I had eliminated gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I was sleeping 8-9 hours every night, drinking plenty of water, practicing yoga 6 times a week and meditating daily.
Yet, why did I feel like I was slowly dying?
My skin was a mess, my hair was thin and continued to fall out in handfuls, I had no energy and I felt very depressed. I was convinced that I had a rare blood disease that was slowly eating me away, and soon I would perish.
Yes this may seem a little dramatic, but I was feeling truly terrible. I was eating plenty of super foods although emotionally, I was starved.
Summer came around and on a special occasion I would leave the city and go out to Long Island or Connecticut to watch my boyfriend play baseball.
On these particular weekends my diet went from being filled with wholesome organic produce to anything I could get my hands on at the baseball field.
I was staying up way past my 9pm bed time, eating deep fried food at TGI Friday's and drinking plenty of red wine.
I was expectant to wake up in the morning to find my acne so inflamed I would no longer be able to conceal with makeup... although this wasn't the case.
By the end of the weekend my skin was glowing. Not only had my skin improved, I had more energy, my hair wasn't falling out and I felt genuinely happy and healthy. I had moved away from my incessant self-correcting ways and I wasn't putting much thought or energy into my sickness.
I wandered how this could be. I just spent a whole weekend living off wine, pretzels and peanut m&m's. Why does my health improve during these weekends although during the week when I'm extraordinarily healthy, I feel like death?
Whilst I spent those weekends feeling a sense of guilt for eating junk food and drinking alcohol, really I had nothing to feel guilty about. During those weekends I was serving myself some well needed medicine. I was moving away from obsessing over healthy food and filling myself with emotional nutrition instead.
By surrounding myself with community at the ballpark each night, then spending the rest of the weekend being smothered with love and affection, I was turning on my self healing mechanisms. The intense feelings of love and connection I was experiencing was the most potent medicine of all.
This video explains the story of a small town in Pennsylvania called Roseto. A community of Italian Immigrants were studied there due to their alarmingly low rates of heart disease.
They researched this community to find out the secret ingredient for a healthy and long life. They found that the community were eating pizza and pasta for most meals, drinking like fish and smoking cigarettes. After taking many angles to find the secret ingredient, the researchers concluded that the people of Roseto were living long and healthy lives because no one was suffering from loneliness.
They lived in multigenerational homes, ate meals together, went to church together and there was no internet or TV so their entertainment was dependent upon their social gatherings.
The most interesting thing documented during this time in Roseto, was that not a single crime incident or emergency call was recorded. Everyone was happy which resulted in long life spans and no crime.
The children eventually grew up and went off the college. They saw modernised America and realised their Italian community and multigenerational homes seemed out of the ordinary. They married outside of the community and by 1971 the first person under 45 died from a heart attack. Their illness and death rates soon matched that of surrounding states.
Both my own story of living in New York and the story of the people of Roseto are demonstrating something pretty significant about the human race.
We are birthed into this world to feel connected, loved and supported. A baby will die if it doesn't receive love and affection on a daily basis. What is the difference between a baby and an adult? Just like we need water and air, we need connection. We need to feel supported by those around us, otherwise we will become very sick.
During times of loneliness the limbic brain (survival part of the brain) is activated, because loneliness is not a typical state humans should remain in for a long period of time. Loneliness moves you into a constant state of low-grade fight or flight, which means your sympathetic nervous system is activated.
On the other end of the spectrum during times where you are not having a stress response, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated (rest and repair mode). Every single day our body is going through a process. We make cancer cells, we break our cellular proteins, we are exposed to harmful chemicals and infectious diseases and we are fighting our own heart disease. Whilst all of these seemingly scary things are happening within our body on a daily basis, we won't be affected by any of it because our body know hows to heal and repair itself.
Although these mechanisms are only working when our body is in the parasympathetic nervous response.
It's okay to feel stressed from time to time because we have the built in hormonal response to manage these times. Although our body is designed to respond to a few minutes of stress, as oppose to your limbic brain sensing loneliness and triggering a long term state of stress.
Your rest and repair mode can be found with meditation and sleep, although we are in our strongest state of rest and repair when we are feeding ourselves with love, connection and intimacy.
Whilst we can't avoid all of the stress that modern day life brings, we do hold the power to make adjustments to our lifestyle.
We have the choice to seek help when we need it.
We have the choice to live alone, or to live in a community.
We have the choice to isolate ourselves during difficult times, or put our hands up and ask for support.
We have the choice to speak to new people, which can lead to new rich relationships.
The greatest thing I can ever teach you is that the physiological responses you are having during times of laughter, intimacy, fun and bliss are FAR greater than any super food in the entire world.
Human beings nourish each other. We belong together.
Do yourself and the world a favour and call your friend, give you housemate a hug, hold your sisters hand or smile at someone on the train. You have the greatest medicine of all. You have a loving presence to offer those around you.