The Power of Connection and how it relates to Your Health.
The power of connection and how it relates to your health.
Today we are going back to the idea of primary food. If you remember, primary food is the stuff that nourishes you that is not food. The four main cornerstones of primary food are: relationships, career, spirituality, and physical activity. This week in my integrative nutrition class we explored relationships and how important they are to your overall health.
I watched a very compelling lecture about human behavior and relationships which really got me thinking about my own relationship styles and how healthy they are.
The lecture began with a short video of the “baby experiment”. It is a very simple experiment between a mother and her child. For the first minute the mother is giving her 10 month old baby a lot of attention, affection, and connection. There is clearly a lot of love going on between them. The following minute, the Mother sits there expressionless and the child gets very anxious and upset as she is not able to get a reaction from her mother. The baby starts by doing the normal happy things that get the Mothers attention, but then begins to screech and cry, clearly very frustrated and sad. In the following minute the Mother goes back to her loving, affectionate ways and then they quickly repair their connection.
Dr. Hendrix, who led the lecture, explained that early childhood is when relationship tendencies and anxieties begin. He said that we are all, even as adults, just like this little baby. And that connection and special interaction between yourself and someone you love is crucially important to your health. Why? “ Because joy is the human desire and our primary emotion. It is anxiety that takes our joy away, and anxiety is triggered by a ruptured connection.” (Harville Hendrix, PhD)
Did you know that when you shut down or are negative to someone, their blood chemistry goes from endorphins to cortisol and they go into fear mode. And it is not just one sided, when you shut down or are negative to someone, YOUR OWN blood chemistry goes from endorphins to cortisol. So just like you’ve heard all your life, what you do to others you do to yourself. This is actual science! It’s a neuro-chemical process that you can’t cheat yourself out of. You literally interfere with your own immune system and the immune system of your friend or partner when you shut down or behave negatively. That is how powerful our connection to others is!
Dr. Hendrix says, “Negativity is the disease of the human race”, it is even more toxic than toxic food. Negativity creates anxiety, which blocks access to higher cerebral functioning” like problem solving and romance. Negativity can be anything from a very minor disapproving look, a verbal put down, stone walling, and all the way to the worst offense, violence.
So if our issues with anxiety in relationships stem all the way back to our relationship with our loved ones as babies, how can we fix them? That is pretty deep, karmic stuff. If healthy, loving connection is so crucial to our health, I suppose it should be a priority to improve our relationships. But where do we start? Dr. Hendrix gave the exercise of trying to go 7 days of 100% positivity in your relationship. That means, you express appreciation regularly, you listen, empathize, make eye contact, and connect, all in a positive way. Even if you are given negativity, you can validate their feelings and respond with respect and love. When you do this, you can transform the environment and begin to re-create a bond and trusting environment.
From a Buddhist perspective, relationships are a part of your environment, and according to Buddhism, your environment is a reflection of yourself. This means that you must take responsibility for creating harmonious relationships; because what is in you will be reflected back to you through other people.
“When we speak or hear the words ‘Thank you,’ the armor falls from our hearts and we communicate on a deep level. ‘Thank you’ is the essence of nonviolence. It contains respect for the other person, humility, and a profound affirmation of life. It possesses a positive, upbeat optimism. It has strength. A person who can sincerely say thank you has a healthy, vital spirit; each time we say those words, our hearts sparkle and life force wells up within us… …Having gratitude and appreciation for the countless people and things that support our lives—that awareness, that feeling, that joy— will invite even greater happiness. Rather than being thankful because we are happy, being thankful itself will make us happy.” – Daisaku Ikeda
As I mentioned before, giving and receiving positive, loving, affectionate energy has a chemical response in your body that helps your immune system stay healthy, keeps you full of energy, and of course the opposite is true. Staying open and reacting in a positive, respectful, loving way in relationships takes practice, but there is no better time to start than now. Over the years, with practice, you will find it to become your nature; and I guarantee you will feel healthier because of it.
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