This week Canada celebrated "Eat Together Day". While this is a great idea, it's sadly probably just that, a day, come and gone. One of the biggest things you will see in many traditional cultures, particularly Asian cultures is their tendency to eat together. From Hong Kong to Thailand, to China to the Philippines I always see families and friends eating together as it is clearly a huge part of their cultures. Food is heavily connected to being social, and being social has been heavily connected to being happier and healthier; mentally, emotionally and even physically.
Yet like many things in the West, we have clearly lost this connection with food and social aspects. We eat by ourselves a majority of the time. We eat quickly while scrolling IG or facebook. And often we even see eating as even an annoying distraction that gets in the way of work. Surveys have even shown many of us eat up to 4 or 5 meals in the car while driving! Coincidentally this week as Canada was celebrating Eat Together Day, the Oxford School of Economics released a study showing a solid connection between eating with others and mental wellbeing and satisfaction with overall life. http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2017-03-16-social-eating-connects-communities.
We are now seeing the stats that are showing us people are more connected now via electronics, yet feel more alone and disconnected then ever. Rates of depression, anxiety, lowliness and other negative cognitive issues are rising sharply, even Alzheimers rates are peaking. Could the answer be just sharing lunches and dinners? Look like it may be!
A number of studies into both health, and longevity have shown us the connections between our social life or connectedness and our overall healths (yes, I mean healths, mental, spiritual, emotions, physical healths).
Researchers in the Oxford study found that people who eat socially are more likely to feel better about themselves and have a wider social network capable of providing social and emotional support.
A study from BYU in Utah shows us a massive correlation between community connection and longevity. https://news.byu.edu/news/byu-professor-spearheading-big-changes-how-world-views-loneliness-and-social-relationships. Coincidentally the Mormon church (which BYU is a large part of, has always suggested all families have a weekly 'family day' to promote family connection).
In a TedTalk by Susan Pinker she talks about the island of Sardinia in Italy has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. And her conclusion was that it's their rich and connected social life that helps assist them to living 100 years+. Her research showed a strong correlation between healthy and strong relationships and social integration and was even more important than quitting smoking, healthy eating, movement/exercise and other typical more hard factors we believe are the "keys to living long". https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_pinker_the_secret_to_living_longer_may_be_your_social_life
Other studies have shown us that families who eat dinner together have children with much lower risks of being overweight, drug and alcohol issues, and weight issues. As well as achieving higher academic scores. Eating together also helps with open communication, social dining skills, conflict resolutions, and developing good social manners.
It seems that Canadians know that eating together is important with 93% saying they think that when families eat together children grow up happier and healthier and with 94% saying that teens build stronger relationships with their parents, yet despite knowing this these benefits and the ones from above research has found that 2/3 Canadians still eat alone most of the time.
So how can we start to fix this? Well I challenge you to choose at LEAST one if not more of these tips to try to get you and your relations more related.
For one full week. Plan to have your household eat dinner together.
Create an ongoing weekly lunch with co-workers and staff.
Aim to share at least three lunches with a friend or co-worker in one week.
Plan a family breakfast for one week and have everyone sit at the table.
** Get a new dining room table. Invest in some nice decor, and start to bring back the family dinner. Buying some good quality and meaningful "dinner stuff" will make you want to use it.
Break out the good dishes and silverware. Dont just use this on holidays. Celebrate each day, or at least once a week you are alive and well!
Prepare foods from scratch and get the family involved. BF and GF, husbands & wives, cook a meal together. Moms (and dads), get the kids involved in preparing dinner.
Plan a once a week dining night out. This doesnt have to be expensive, but make sure its a place that uses real plates, and forks, not wrappers!
Make a promise to not eat even one meal in your car for two weeks.
For one week make a promise to have at least 1 meal per day with ANYONE!
If you are the big boss, plan a once a month staff get together involving a lunch or dinner. And pay for the food you cheap bugger! (Yes they can pay for alcohol themselves).
If we start to treat the act of eating like they do in Asia and other less rushed and more tradtional cultures, you will start to bring back the magic of eating and socializing to meals, and look less at it as a hassle or neeseecity, and more as an awesome privilege and relaxing time to catch up and share.