As therapists, and in particular us hypnotherapists, we get taught the value of being trustworthy, displaying integrity and creating rapport with our clients. Yet such relating is not just beneficial for a formal therapeutic relationship. In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that developing empathy and enhancing our friendships is incredibly healthy for us. “Yeah, we know that Adam” I hear many of you state as you carry on living hermit-like existences… Even those of you that do know such, perhaps do not know just how important it is and some of the research findings are verging on shocking.

I often espouse the benefits of self-hypnosis, progressive relaxation, meditation, as well as running and other forms of exercise as wonderful ways of reducing stress and being able to deal with it more effectively.

These are all well and good and things I certainly employ in my day-to-day life. What is omitted here though is what is actually the most important source of stress reduction: relationships.

This week, I had pointed out to me another piece of research that indicates just how vitally important human contact is for our psychological as well as physical health. This study over at the Public Library of Science website, reviews the results of many, many earlier studies including data from over 300,00 people, and found that those with strong relationships have a 50% lower risk of mortality than those who are isolated and without social support. Yes indeed, a 50% lower risk of mortality!!

As it says in the study itself, that’s as large a benefit as people get from not smoking!!

So what are the reasons for this striking statistic do you think? One notion from other authors is that we develop our ability to cope with stress from our early teachers, such as our parents first and foremost. While our folks nurture and interact with us, giving us physical affection when we are very young, our stress systems get hardwired to think and believe that Mum and Dad help to relieve stress. We all see this happening when parents pick there kids up from playgroup or return home after work in how the childs face lights up.

This notion is extended so far and is so important, that even a 100-year-young person is going to have their blood pressure lowered if they have their 125-year-old mother around with them interacting and supporting them!

As with everything that I ever write about and as with every theory that exists  there are exceptions to the rules. Abused children, for example.

None the less, with the findings of this study reaffirming that the link is so important, and that supportive friends and family have so many health benefits, I think it is well worth taking stock of the level of supportive interaction you get. As those of you in this field will know, as we develop and grow, we create generalisations from our younger life and as such, other social contact also gets connected with stress relief and well being.

This study of many other studies really does demonstrate overtly that these effects and subsequent benefits last an entire lifetime… Family and friends truly are wonderfully therapeutic and beneficial and healthy. So go and empathise and connect and rejoice for more reasons than usual at Christmas when you are cooped up with all those guys!