Do you know someone that, on paper, would be considered "unhealthy", - but seems to be wistfully going through life dodging health issues, joyfully eating and doing whatever they want?
Maybe they drink or smoke too much. Maybe they eat poorly and never exercise.
They are never at the doctors, they manage their weight just fine, and get pregnant on the first try.
Meanwhile while you're guzzling your green smoothie and throwing yourself at the peloton, you find yourself unfairly wondering "what the heck is their secret?"
Let me tell you about the "The Roseto effect". A study done in the 60's about a small town in Roseto, PA.
This cozy town was filled entirely of Italian immigrants that were outliving the rest of America. Scientists flocked to study them- their habits, daily activities, and diet- because compared to the rest of the country, they had much longer life spans and seemed almost untouchable by disease or heart attacks.
They cooked their food in lard and they loved their pasta and wine.
But residents were literally only dying of old age.
What the scientists ultimately discovered that it wasn't a special diet or exercise plan that gave them long and happy lives.
It was their social structure.
They lived in very close-knit communities. Several generations of single families often lived together. They were neighborhoods full of love and friendships, always looking out and taking care of one another.
"Every evening in Roseto was like a festival – people cooking for one another, joining tables and having dinner together in the front yard. Lively stories and songs used to go on till midnight."
The stress levels were so low in this town they were "off the charts" in the other direction.
We all aim for that "low stress" lifestyle, but many of us haven't learned how to recognize stress, much less how to manage it.
So what if instead of using our free time to connect with others on our phones, we used our lesson from Roseto to connect in real time, more frequently with our beloved friends and family.
What if we started paying attention to what environments really light us up and bring us joy? Who are we with when we feel the most alive and like ourselves?
Imagine if eating a special meal and laughing with a friend added a few years to your life?
Reducing stress levels does not mean you have to start meditating, taking cbd oil, or cold plunging.
What if it's as simple as building your own little community that takes care of one another?
What if it's as simple as prioritizing happy relationships over work productivity?
When I lived abroad away from everyone and everything that made me, me- I discovered this was the missing link to my health. I was eating all the best anti-inflammatory foods and working out, but internally I was stressed and my health reflected it.
I missed my people, living by the ocean, and eating the foods I loved- all the things that make me feel alive.
Mental health and gut health is important, but is your soul happy?
If it's not, the internal stress might catch up with you.
It's not until I focused on building friendships abroad, taking those special vacations with my family, indulging in the food and drinks I loved, and making time for the things that bring me joy, that I was able to find balance in my body and finally get and keep a pregnancy.
Maybe coincidence, maybe not.
And maybe, just maybe, all those people that don't eat perfectly or work out, are being their best fullest most intention-filled selves, and are going to outlive us all.
It's time we normalized a whole picture of health. One that includes family, community, love, and joy. A lifestyle that nourishes and balances our nervous system.
Post inspired by readings from book Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin, M.D.