Itís Earth Day plus the Benefits of Virtual Human Connection

It’s strange writing about Earth day at a time like this, when the whole world is gripped by fear, uncertainty and grief. Yet, surely one of the most positive things to come out of this worldwide pandemic is the beneficial impact that it’s having on our planet, its ecosystems, flora and fauna. Of course, any celebration of the positive climate change that’s already come into effect due to the covid-19 outbreak must be caveated, with the very real, very sad fact that as our natural world flourishes, man does not.
earth day image
Despite the fact that we are thrilled beyond belief that the earth’s atmosphere is finally less polluted, flights are grounded and with them their putrid expulsion of noxious gasses into the Earth’s atmosphere, Venice’s canals are the cleanest they’ve been for over 60 years and you can actually hear the birds singing in London, (rather than the gentle but somewhat deafening hum of traffic), we find ourselves not wishing to dwell too much on those positives when inevitably it would seem that in order to do so we would have to play down the loss of life and the tragic nature of this pandemic.
 
Venice canal
 
Instead, we want to talk about the incredible upsurge in human connection, conversations and interactions that we’re all engaged in and how this is positively impacting our health and our immunity. Of course, the physical connection (Especially for those isolating alone), is severely lacking at the moment but in the absence of touch comes new and fun ways to feel connected, safe and grounded within our communities.

We’re sure we’re not the only ones that are speaking to members of their family, friends and loved ones much more than usual - in fact, when was the last time you spoke to your best friend this much?! It’s truly amazing how much we’re all FaceTiming, Housepartying, Zooming and so on. And whilst sometimes it might feel hard that the physical and tactile element isn’t there, our brains are still able to transmute the feeling of acceptance, joy and connection that we get from seeing loved ones faces into positive health attributes via the gut brain axis.

Without adequate dopamine and serotonin it’s likely that our health will suffer - and this goes for whole system health and also immune health too. The reason for this is that when we wire ourselves for happiness (let’s say you have a fun and giggly chat on Houseparty with your best girlfriends), you produce the feel good chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Now, serotonin (also known as our ‘happy hormone’) is made, primarily, in the gut - yet another reason to optimise your gut health at a time like this. Conversely, without enough connection and a sense of community1 our health suffers as we enter a stressed state ruled by anxiety inducing hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

When we upregulate our immune system to deal with the inflammatory response that comes from a feeling of not belonging, or disconnection and loneliness we put the health of our whole body at risk because, as we explored in a recent blog post, our immune system simply doesn’t work as well when we’re operating in a more stressed and pro-inflammatory state.

So the take home is this: Yes, you may not have hugged anyone for a long time but you can trick your body into getting the positive benefits from touch that it needs in other ways. Here are some of our favourites:

- Dancing to some 70s or 80s classics in your pjs
- Laughing with your pals on Houseparty or Zoom
- Boosting endorphins and feel good chemicals by running, or any other aerobic exercise.
- Nourishing your body and supporting your gut health with a low sugar, low inflammation diet
- Spending time in nature as much as you can (and are allowed)

1 Buettner, D. 2012 Blue Zones