Bonding with people is as much a key to survival as food, water, and shelter. Not only does human connection make us feel safe and supported in a complex world, but it also underlies the body's ability to protect us from illness. A survey of existing research was currently undertaken by Dignity Health and The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and shows that the ability to empathize with and support others can improve health by lowering your blood pressure.
The Mind-Body Connection
Th review of published clinical studies included a focus on how delivering care with compassion and kindness affects blood pressure. When a person is under stress, their body produces hormones that temporarily raise blood pressure. If it stays high over time, it can increase the risk of other health problems.
A study from the International Journal of Psychophysiology showed that positive emotions from human connection help the mind and body relax, ultimately reducing stress hormone levels. In a different study, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that, when people received support during a stressful event, their blood pressure lowered and their heart rate variability increased. Compassionate people, in particular, derive health benefits from social support and from their own kindness.
The Power of Touch
Touch plays an important role in human connection and health. A study by The American Psychosomatic Society found that married couples who supported each other through warm touch, such as hand-holding, hugging, and cuddling, lowered their stress hormone levels. When couples regularly performed this behavior, many of the men showed higher levels of the so-called "love hormone," oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure.
The Impact of Positive Communication
Communication and empathy are at the heart of health care. Doctor-patient relationships based on trust, respect, and warmth correlate with positive health outcomes, particularly in treating high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that clinician empathy increases trust. It also makes patients more comfortable and willing to participate in their own care and follow their doctor's recommended treatment. The committee urges doctors to provide patient-centered care that includes counseling, education, and positive feedback to achieve better blood pressure outcomes.
A Warm, Friendly Touch Goes a Long Way
The pursuit of loving, caring relationships, emotional attachment, and physical affection is ingrained in our DNA. Human connection brings value to our lives, providing a sense of belonging and enhancing our daily experiences. A wealth of scientific research shows it contributes another important benefit: It helps us manage our everyday health by lowering blood pressure. For more information about human connection and health care, visit The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.