There are things that I am afraid to put into writing for fear of making them too real.
For this week’s post, I had planned to write a lighthearted self-reflection on something or other. Then the past few days happened. Without going into specifics, these days have been tough beyond measure. All lightheartedness instantly evaporated. The importance of strong family relationships took over my field of vision and was reinforced more than ever.
I am part of a large extended family. The dynamics are sometimes messy, sometimes complicated and seldom quiet. Despite occasional squabbles, our family pack is a good place to be. Our bonds are strong.
In the past few days, these ties have been tested. Despite the size of our brood, every single individual has risen above their own pain to help one another. The cohesiveness of our fold has been commented upon by many.
In a previous post, I highlighted current research that has shown that nurturing and supportive family relationships can decrease stress levels. I looked specifically at expanding research that argues that family relationships can provide stimulation, purpose, a sense of connection and validation, especially when we are no longer in the workplace.
This past week, I was repeatedly struck by family members, at all stages of life, supporting each other. They each demonstrated incredible acts of selflessness, at the most difficult of times. I looked again at studies on families with this lens. The research was abundant.
Below is a small highlight of a smattering of takeaways that I discovered when barely scratching the surface of available sources.
Your Mom CAN Make It Better – In a 2010 study, conducted at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers found that children who spoke with their mothers following a stressful situation, showed increased levels of oxytocin (believed to decrease our stress response). Source. This phenomenon has caused some researchers to comment that “Mothers know without being instructed how to soothe a child.” Source I was fortunate to be with my own mother at the start of this terrible week. In my case, I totally agree with this research.
Being a Parent May Increase Your Life Expectancy –
A study of 21,276 couples from Denmark, revealed that parents (both mothers and fathers) were four times less likely to die early from accidents, cancer, or other specific diseases. Although these results contradict the findings of many earlier studies, this does seem like a nice reward for all of those sleepless nights! Source
Caring for Others Helps Us Take Better Care of Ourselves- Various bodies of research now suggest that taking care of people that we love may help us to take better care of ourselves. Included in this research is evidence that our immune function and stress regulation is improved when we are around our family and close friends. Source As you may have already suspected, according to researchers, family and friends are very influential in terms of our lifestyle.Source In one study, “36 percent of people say their nutrition is affected by influence from their friends and family. And 46 percent of people in the survey said that their loved ones make a difference in their overall healthy lifestyles.” Source
Siblings Decrease Loneliness and Increase Happiness – Although much of this research was conducted on sisters, studies have shown that having a sibling is good for your mental health, and can help people (especially preteens) feel less lonely/less self-conscious and happier. Having a sibling was also linked with greater family communication as well as more inclination to do good deeds. Source
Blood Just May Be Thicker Than Water – New studies from the University of Toronto reveal that, for seniors, having close relationships with family members is more important than friendships, especially in terms of life expectancy. According to this study, retirees who were very close with family members had lower mortality rates than those who relied solely on close friendships. (11th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association). Source
The pain of this past week will remain in the hearts of my family forever. But the selfless acts of family members that we witnessed again and again will equally never fade. I am immensely proud and grateful to be part of such an incredible family pack.