Winter is time for inner reflection and community. The lack of sun brings a different type of warmth. I find this is best supported by longer hugs, warming spices added to our food and abundant potlucks filled with laughter and love. In winter, the trees and plants draw their energy inward and downward. We should also slow down to be in tune with nature’s natural rhythms. I believe harmonious balance can be found by waiting and listening to your inner voice and drawing that warmth outward to your environment. I encourage my clients to be in tune with one’s self through journaling, practicing mindfulness daily, and tapping into a healthy supportive community. It is through these processes that we can begin to warm and heal ourselves, in part, by healing others as well.
In fact, there have been studies done that show being a part of an active community can lead to a longer healthier life. Lisa Rankin MD has completely changed the concept of her medical practice with this in mind. She now approaches medical issues in a way that allows the body to heal itself. This is best done with love and faith, which may be lacking in these modern times.
You can pick up Lisa Rankin’s book Mind over medicine: Scientific Proof that you can heal yourself. Dr. Rankin uses the example of a small community of Italian immigrants living in Rossetto, Pensylvania to help demonstrate this. This community had caught the eye of a cardiologist vacationing in the area who became obsessed with finding the secret to why this community had half the rate of heart disease as the rest of the surrounding community. While doing his research he found their diet consisted of pasta, pizza, all too much wine and lard laden meatballs. They tracked other immigrants in America who had originated from the same town in Italy and they had the same high rate of heart disease as the rest of the country. (This was in the 60s when heart disease was at it’s peak.)
The final conclusion was that the people of Rossetto lived longer and had half the rate of heart disease because no one was lonely. After work they often stopped by a friend or family member’s house with no prior appointment. This would be done over a shared meal and some wine, but it would not be long before another person would join – their “open door” policy welcomed everyone. Although they were heavy smokers and wine drinkers, they also worked long and demanding days. The women worked at a blouse factory and the men worked in the rock quarry. What is most important to take away from this though, is the fact that they lived in multi-generational communities that they actively participated in. Another example being, when a child had to be watched short notice, simply ask the neighbors. Know that all good things must be reciprocated though. The community would come together to support and help anyone down on their luck. The love within community caused it to thrive.
Love is best shared and I think this study is so dear to my heart for just that reason. Try to make the effort to share your love this winter and I am sure it will help you to stay warm during these chilly days. Living in a fast paced environment, it can become easy to distance ourselves from the strong values of community and love without even noticing it. Our lifestyle can contribute to a chronic stress response that suppresses the immune system and makes us susceptible to illness. This is why we need love and support to be the foundation of how we live. Use focused intention when communicating with another person instead of simply trying to get the message across. Next time, give your loved one a call or write them a personal letter instead of the quickly scribbled text we are all too familiar with.
I try to lead by example and call my family more as they don’t live close and my Grandparents are aging. I’m realizing how important it is to work at maintaining relationships. I encourage all of you to think of love, connection and community as a living food that nourishes you.
Embrace this winter with the primary need to connect. Offer a friend a hand massage and your best listening ears, go for a walk with a dog (if you don’t have one invite a friend who does), take a bath, smile at a parent lovin’ on their child, organize a craft night or instigate a hug quota and tell people about it!
We can learn an easy lesson from the people of Rossetto. Together, we can fight loneliness in a city that might give us the illusion that we are more connected than we think. Let us integrate love as a priority into our lives. How much love have you gotten in the last week? Better yet, this month or year? Remember: the best way to find more love in your life is to spread it.
If you like my approach and above are typical homework assignments from me as your health coach