Dr Milli: Lifestyle Medicine Pillar: Positive psychology and social connectedness
by Northern Life
Dr Milli, talks about the importance of positive psychology.
Here, Dr Milli shares her thoughts on the benefits of positivity and community.
WHAT IS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY?
Put simply, positive psychology is a branch of psychology that looks at what strengths, behaviours, and characteristics that enable someone or a community to lead a purposeful and happy life. I see positive psychology as a way of personal development and focusing on well-being rather than an illness model.
Positive psychology consists of five elements.
1. Being positive, which can be hard. It’s so easy to be negative at times. I challenge you not to say anything negative for the next 24 hours! Find a solution to the problem rather than focusing on the problem itself.
2. Being present and in the moment; being mindful. All too often, we are consumed and too busy to appreciate the simple things in life. Try to schedule time with family and friends and be present with them; put your phones away!
3. Connections with others: your family, friends and your support network.
4. A purpose in life, e.g., helping people in your job, etc.
5. Accomplishing and achieving through life, e.g., having a goal such as running a 5k or completing an Iron Man competition.
WHAT IS SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS?
“Connection is why we are here; it gives purpose and meaning to our lives”- Brenee Brown.
Social connections incorporate our relationships and social support network, from family, partners and friends to online support groups. Our social connections with friends and family we did not live with suffered during COVID and lockdown, and this had a huge impact on an individual’s mental and physical health. Similarly, lack of social connections, particularly loneliness, can have negative health outcomes. This is why strong social support and community can be vital in helping people improve their physical, hormonal, and mental health.
HOW CAN POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL CONNECTIONS HELP BALANCE OUR HORMONES?
Positivity attracts positivity. It’s a fact and the law of attraction. Being positive helps our hormones in many ways. Positivity can reduce stress, therefore reducing cortisol and also adrenaline. High cortisol and adrenaline can lend themselves to cause symptoms such as anxiety, palpitations, etc., and difficulty sleeping – causing that tired and wired feeling. Positivity also raises oxytocin, an alkalising happy love hormone which is at the top of the hormone hierarchy and helps balance out hormones beneath it. Positivity and happiness will also activate the parasympathetic nervous system and create more calmness. I see so many women in perimenopause and menopause who feel low, introverted and not themselves, which can cause them to be at loggerheads and distant from their loved ones and friends. This can lower oxytocin, raise cortisol and worsen the feelings experienced in the menopause transition.
HOW CAN POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL CONNECTIONS HELP US THROUGH PERIMENOPAUSE AND MENOPAUSE?
Positive psychology and social connections can help improve the quality of life in the menopause transition in many ways.
1. It can help with COPING STRATEGIES in dealing with the physical and psychological symptoms that occur in the menopause transition.
2. Social networks are a fantastic resource for people to share their experiences, e.g., online menopause groups such as the Menopausing and HRT discussion groups on Facebook and face-to-face resources such as menopause cafes.
3. Both of the above can lend themselves to people engaging in better lifestyle techniques, e.g., eating well, exercising, etc., which can improve sleep and mental wellbeing.
WHAT TOOLS CAN WE USE TO IMPROVE POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL CONNECTIONS
1. Look after yourself. The menopause and perimenopause can come at a time when we have older parents and potential caring responsibilities, childcare responsibilities and a hectic job. This, teamed with hormonal changes, can alter and affect how we can cope. Spend at least 30 minutes doing something you enjoy. Read a book, go for a walk. Schedule this time in; as you do with work meetings.
2. Reflection on events and having time to think about events is a really useful way to assess how things went and what can be improved.
3. Talking: explain to your friends and loved ones how you feel; if you are having a terrible day, explain this and talk it through. The power of communication in these situations can be very strong.
4. Mindfulness practices to promote better wellbeing.
5. Practice gratitude – it helps boost oxytocin and positive well-being.
Let’s replace ‘I’ in illness with ‘we’ so it becomes wellness.
As you can see from the above, a collective community is so important for our mental and physical health, utilising the principles of positive psychology and social connections. With my aim of bringing together a community, I will be holding events and retreats in the North West in 2024 on the topic of perimenopause/ menopause and lifestyle with Pilates/yoga sessions, educational empowering talks, walks in nature and gut and hormone-friendly food to help support your journey.
For more details, please sign up to my newsletter on drmilli.co.uk/newsletter and be the first to be notified of dates. As a community, let’s replace ‘I’ in illness with ‘we’ so it becomes wellness.
Both the above concepts are discussed further in my book, Happy Hormones Happy You (Beaten Track Publishing 2023), which I am pleased to say is a number 1 Amazon best seller in its category. I am so pleased people are seeing the need for self-empowerment, help and advice for better hormonal balance through lifestyle and utilising this book as a foundational guide. It is a great investment; it is available from amazon.co.uk and is priced at £12.99 for the paperback or £4.99 for the e-book.
I wish you a happy new year filled with health and prosperity.
Until next time.
Dr Milli x
NorthernLife Jan/Feb 24