Dear Readers,

If I asked what would be the one change in your life that could give you the greatest health benefit, how would you respond? Would you say more exercise? Eat healthier? Sleep more? Quit smoking?

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more studies that discuss the health benefits of having interactions with friends, family, neighbors and community members as part of our daily schedules.

Want to live a longer, healthier life? Want to be happier? Then put more effort into your social life!

According to some studies, those with poor social connections had 50 percent higher odds of death than those with regular social integration. Some researchers suggest that communal connections can positively affect our longevity even more than factors like a healthy diet, a flu shot, exercise and not smoking anymore.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how friends, family or social connections can create greater health. But they have noticed that our bodies respond physiologically better when we have the support of others. Our blood pressure and heart rate will increase less in a stressful situation if we are not alone. This applied even to children, who when they were able to speak to their mothers after stressful events showed better signs of handling their situation.

This week, we enter the Jewish month of Adar—the most joyous month on our calendar. Just around the corner is the holiday of Purim, when we gather as a community to recall the miracle of our salvation in ancient Persia when Haman sought to destroy every Jew, young and old, man and woman. As part of our celebrations, we come together as a community. We read the Megillah together in groups of people. We share gifts of food with one another. We make a festive meal together. And we make sure not to forget those less fortunate by having them join in our merriment and presenting them with gifts of charity.

Judaism knows what science and medicine are now discovering. There is no greater spiritual, emotional or physiological benefit than coming together with others—as a community, as a social network and as a friend—to share an empathetic ear and extend a helping hand.

Let’s be there for another. Not only will it make us into healthier individuals, it will make us better ones, too.

Wishing you a chodesh tov . . . a very happy and joyful month!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW