Let me tell you that I was a ‘Health Junkie.’ Yes, you heard that correct. I used to obsess about my health and the health of my family members. I used to carry sanitizers, hand wipes, handkerchiefs, sanitizers spray, and a small soap dispenser in my handbag, long before the Coronavirus came.
Prolonged vegetable washing, cleaning my house, researching for a good and clean place to eat, searching on the internet for healthy recipes, visiting various markets to look for that ‘super organic food’ which was trendy and could be the elixir of life, was how I passed my time.
Come October, and I would start looking for new filters to buy for the air purifier and N-95 masks for my family and me. I used to obsess about air pollution and how it could affect our health. Diwali, a Hindu festival, wasn’t a joyous occasion for me, instead, during this time; my anxieties would hit the roof to think about the pollution from the crackers and fireworks.
After the Diwali festival, air pollution in Delhi rises, and sometimes the particle pollution may exceed norms by as much as 3000 percent. You could actually feel your eyes burning and feel the air burning the back of your throat, tasting of sulfur. So, I would curtail my outdoor exercises and even forbade my family to venture out.
But after all these years, when everyone is anxious because of this pandemic and travel movement is restricted, I have come to realize what a mistake I had been making in skipping the family festivities.
Oh, what a time gone wasted. Because the pollution, no matter how ghastly, is nowhere as essential in terms of our family’s physical health as was spending time with relatives and friends, the more, the better.
A report has observed that people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent higher chance of a greater life span than those who didn’t possess such healthy social capital.
Now, today when we can’t go and meet our friends, family members, and colleagues, I have come to realize how much I was relying on these relationships. According to the research, high-quality marriage and friendships, in addition to being able to rely on neighbors, meant an astounding 60 percent lower mortality risk.
To put things in perspective, it means that if you lacked these relationships, it could have a far more significant impact on longevity than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day (50 percent higher mortality). Air pollution contains a meager 5 percent mortality risk.
I denied myself and my family the joy of being surrounded by our loved ones during these festive times. This is far worse in terms of our health than whatever amounts of sulfur oxides linger in Delhi’s air.
A connection, relationship togetherness, is what keeps our arteries healthy. After all, science has shown us that our social hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin, our insula, our vagus nerve, and the amygdala in the brain, and even our gut microbes are linked with our physical health to how mindfully and socially we live our lives.
Instead of obsessing about your health, take this newfound time to maintain your relationship. Help your neighbors while maintaining social distancing, teach your children kindness, be mindful, talk to your loved ones often, and connect with them either through phones or video calls.
This is a challenging time, but it will help us stay healthy better than organic quinoa and the most pristine air. And as a side effect, it makes us extra happy and loved, too.