Studies increasingly find that friendship and a sense of community can provide a higher quality of life and overall well-being. Research conducted amongst older people in Australia showed that social networks can even contribute to a longer life.
If friends can make us happy, why do so many of us with emotional eating tendencies avoid social situations? It’s likely because we usually fixate on worst-case scenarios, like judgment and rejection, so it’s much easier to isolate ourselves rather than risk experiencing those fears.
However, to gain control over emotional eating and losing weight, community and friendship might be one of the most significant contributors to your health and achieving success.
Your overall positive emotional state depends on those around you, one study has found. The research was conducted over a twenty year period and found that those who were surrounded by happy people were more likely to become happy in the future. Not only is there a temporary boost when spending time with a group of friends, the evidence shows that it also has long-lasting effects and contributes to an overall increase in your positive outlook on life.
Just as mood is affected by your friends, so are positive choices. Several doctors synthesized information from fifteen different studies and found that social habits determine your own healthy and unhealthy food choices. If your group of friends makes healthy choices, this directly influences your decision making and quality of food being eaten.
The uptick in group fitness classes isn’t just a trend. The Journal of Social Sciences published a paper showing that those who exercised together in fitness classes performed better because they were comparing their performance to those around them. While this doesn’t mean that exercise needs to be competitive, or done in a group setting to be effective, it does mean that even a walk with a friend for exercise may be more beneficial than if done by yourself.
There is also evidence to show that even social interactions with strangers can boost your mood. So, while it’s difficult to fit in time with a friend every day, it is easy to spend a few extra seconds asking a cashier how their day is going, or finally learn the name of the barista at your local coffee shop. Connecting with more people, whether they are strangers or close friends, can help you feel part of a collective, rather than so isolated.
In my book, Heal Your Hunger: 7 Simple Steps to End Emotional Eating Now, I discuss the importance of community and how the right support will help you succeed. It’s important to have friends and positive interactions with strangers, but it’s also essential that your real support system is coming from (or has experienced) exactly what you are going through.
When you are a part of a community, they not only offer fellowship and guidance, but challenge your thought processes and fears that may be controlling your habits and the way you live. Being challenged and supported by people who have gone through exactly what you are struggling with will help illuminate a path through the ups and downs of life, rather than rely on food as your source of comfort.
While it’s difficult to break out of our habits of moving through the world with protective blinders on, I hope you can see that by making small steps toward connecting with others you can increase your sense of hope, positivity and wellbeing, and ultimately break free from the bondage to food in the process.
Start connecting with people like you today by joining my private Facebook group The Secret Sauce to End Emotional Eating.