In the movie, “Cast Away,” Chuck Noland, a time-obsessed systems engineer, is stranded alone on a desert island. One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is the relationship he develops with a basketball, which he names Wilson. Throughout the film, he talks to and even argues with Wilson. The basketball becomes so important to Chuck that, at one point, he risks his own life to retrieve the basketball when it is washed away during a storm. This relationship—even with an inanimate object—provides purpose, comfort, and meaning to Chuck.
That shouldn’t surprise us. Interacting with others is essential—and instinctive—to good physical and mental health and well-being. Compelling evidence indicates that strong relationships provide myriad benefits. Here are just a few ways that strong relationships can help us:
- Deal with stress. Research suggests that stress can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Caring behaviors, which are often part of strong relationships, trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones, which in turn can alleviate problems caused by stress.
- Be healthier. One study reported that college students who had strong relationships were half as likely to catch a common cold when exposed to the virus. In addition, an international Gallup poll found that people who feel they have friends and family to count on are generally more satisfied with their personal health than people who feel isolated. And hanging out with healthy people increases your own likelihood of health.
- Live longer. It makes sense that if strong relationships help reduce stress and increase our health, those with strong relationships live longer. In fact, some research suggests that having healthy social relationships makes a bigger impact on avoiding early death than taking blood pressure medication or being exposed to air pollution.
- Feel richer. A survey of 5,000 people conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that doubling your group of friends has the same effect on your well-being as a 50 percent increase in income.
- Greater Sense of Purpose. It’s natural for us to want to feel needed and like we’re part of something bigger. Being in a caring relationship, no matter what kind, can give us a greater sense of well-being and purpose.
This month we’re celebrating strong relationships—especially those we find in the E. EXCEL family. Thank you for being part of our family and for caring about the E. Excellers in your life!