Taking a fresh look at relationships – Sue Potgieter

This month we will look at another core imbalance in the development of disease (see June issue): Social relationships. These – both quantity and quality – affect mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and mortality risk according to sociologists. In fact, social health has as many effects on physical health as smoking, blood pressure, obesity and physical activity. Studies consistently show that individuals with the lowest level of involvement in social relationships are more likely to die than those with greater involvement. Positive healthy relationships lead to healthy behaviours whereas stress is a central dimension of the negative side of social relationships. We will be looking at stress and its effects, both positive and negative, in next month’s article.

Impact of not eating together as families

An important study that was conducted recently on adolescents discovered that about 11.8% skip family meals to watch TV, 8.2% skip meals to read books, and about 10.5% skip meals to play various computer games. People who watch television during family meals tend to eat fewer vegetables, fewer grains, and fewer calcium-rich foods, but consume a huge amount of soft drinks. Watching TV whilst eating does not allow the signalling system in the body to communicate with the brain that food is being consumed. This has a negative effect on the digestive system, and can contribute to all kinds of gut problems. Rather than waiting for the New Year, let’s put some fresh new behaviours in place at the beginning of Autumn. Here are my suggestions, even if you live on your own:

1. Eat at a table; set a place for everyone; maybe put a flower in the centre!
2. Turn the TV off and leave phones, tablets etc in another room.
3. Be mindful whilst you’re eating: the brain uses sight, smell and taste to switch on digestion.
4. Chew slowly! Digestion begins in the mouth, when saliva is mixed with the food, starting the breakdown of starch. This is a vital part of the process.
5. A couple of times a week surprise your family with a post it note at their place, telling them something that you appreciate about them!
6. Be grateful for all your eat. Talk with your children about where food comes from (not a supermarket)
7. Start by eating one meal together a day and increase it to two; breakfast and dinner.


Social media

In today’s world we are all connected, all the time. Facebook, snapchat, emails, Instagram and whats app all compete for our time and energy. There is a FOMO (feeling of missing out) if we aren’t checking our likes, comments etc. every few minutes. However just like substance use and gambling, the requirement for members’ attention through comments and likes can quickly become addictive, which in turn may cause controversy between friends triggering stress. We need to be aware of online bullying and stalking, especially for teenagers who are especially sensitive to peer pressure. Be smart and know where to get help if you are suspicious of online bullying, stalking or grooming.
https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abusesafety/ types-bullying/online-bullying/ Tel: 0800 1111

On the other hand, social media forums may have a healthy effect on your relationships. For many who are on their own, it is their connection to the outside world. In all these areas however, there needs to be a balance. Don’t reach for your phone first thing in the morning…leave an hour before you go online! Lastly we need to look at the effect that toxic or abusive relationships have on our health. Living under constant stress and fear has an accumulative effect on health and wellness, and may result in a cardiac event later in life. Get help whilst the effects on your health are minimal.

For women: www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/help-forwomen/recognising-abuse/ 0808 2000 247

For men: www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/help-for-menwho-are-being-abused.htm 01823 334244

A fully referenced article in pdf format is available on request from
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