Now, more than ever, well-being is not a ‘nice-to-have’. In addition to a healthy body and strong immune system, we need the social, emotional and mental resilience to adapt in a world that is rapidly changing, unpredictable, volatile and increasingly stressful.
If this year of physical distancing has taught us anything it is just how vital social connection is in that equation. We’ve all had the lived experience of what science has only recently recognized: social interaction, as a powerful regulator of our stress systems, shapes the architecture and function of our brains and, through epigenetic mechanisms, regulates our immune system switching on and off genes that fight viral infection. In fact, recent epidemiological studies have shown that the impact of social distress on health is greater than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Not surprisingly, social distress has been deemed “the biggest health crisis of our time” by Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General who has said about the COVID pandemic “If we learn from this moment to be better together, we won’t just endure this crisis. We will thrive.”
In the months to come we will all be firing on half of our cognitive and emotional regulation cylinders. To accelerate the road to recovery, to capitalize on the opportunity that even the uncertain future can be a better one, it is essential that we refuel and make social, emotional and mindset health a ‘must-have’.