The Best Medicine

I was sitting in the corner seat of the train with my husband in the Berlin metro. From my seat you could see the whole wagon and the people entering and exiting the train. Andrzej and I were going on a date and I was enjoying the nearness of his body in our seat while we held hands.

At the next station a couple entered the wagon holding hands. They were young, teenagers, may be fifteen or fourteen years old. You could see the excitement of first love in their eyes and the look they gave to each other when they spoke.

“The beauty of first love” I whispered to Andrzej, while we both looked at them with a smile.

I looked around the wagon and next to us I could find love again. This time it was in the form of a daughter-father relationship. She was holding a box of chocolates most children in Germany get before Christmas. The Germans call it the “Adventskalendar”, which is basically that: a calendar that starts on the first of December and ends on the twenty fourth. Each day the children open the small compartment and find a chocolate. The little girl also had a gingerbread heart hanging from her neck that read “Du bist mein Schatz” (You are my sweetheart). She looked happy.

I also saw two women who came in and were having a nice conversation like old friends, sharing opinions and laughing a little, and I could see the love of old friends in their interaction.

The truth is that all of us need love, it doesn’t matter in what form, but each of the relationships in the train represented a necessary connection every human heart needs.

A popular lecturer at Harvard says: “Having people about whom we care and who care about us to share our lives with, to share the events and thoughts and feelings in our lives, intensifies our experience of meaning, consoles us in our pain, deepens our sense of delight in the world.” (Ben-Shahar Tal, Happier, Mc Grew Hill, 2007)

Besides giving us meaning, love is also capable of improving our health. Robert Waldinger, the director of a longitudinal study at Harvard on relationships, found three lessons we all can use:

1.Social connections are very good for us. Good relationships keep us alive and happier. People who have good connections with their family, friends and community live longer than people who are lonely. People who feel lonely and isolated are less happy; their health declines earlier in mid-life; and experience earlier neural deterioration.

2.The quality of your close relationships matters: living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health, and living in the midst of good and warm relationships protects it.

3.Good relationships not only protect our bodies in general, but they also protect our brains. People who feel that they are in a secure and attached relationship and have people they can count on in times of need, have sharper memories when they reach their 80’s.

I don’t know at what stage of your life you are today. Like the people of the train we all need connections, we all need love. But wherever you are, I hope today you can invest your time with those who you care about and create a loving experience.

Investing in love is one of the best thing you can do to improve your overall health.

“A good friend is like good medicine, but a group of friends, is like an entire pharmacy.”

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