Sherry Sami, DDS, is a dual specialist in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, as well as a master in spiritual psychology. The following piece, penned by Dr. Sherry Sami, originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine, available now for digital download and print orders.
After coming together with family and friends during the holidays, I find this time of year is a great opportunity to reflect on my relationships. I see how I might grow in them, not just the ones that are nurturing, but the ones that trigger me, as well. This past holiday season, many families celebrated together for the first time after being separated for almost two years because of COVID-19. There is now more potential for personal growth in our relationships. Debates over politics and public health have created some serious conflict that not only has polarized the country but families, as well. I’ve seen it in my friendships and extended family, and I’m sure most of you have had similar experiences.
The trick will be not to allow ourselves to be triggered by sharp remarks or opposing opinions. Instead, we need to ask ourselves what the lesson is that our souls are trying to teach us during these challenging times. What choices can we make to act as agents of change and unity instead of separation within our family community? To me, the best way to do that is to focus on creating connections instead of conflict.
Gratitude & Togetherness
To move our families in that direction we should be approaching our relationships with gratitude, and not fear or upset, because we finally have the opportunity to celebrate together again. I hope we haven’t forgotten that for nearly 18 months we weren’t able to see the family and friends we love while quarantined. A year ago, most families were fragmented into much smaller groups with some doing their best to stay connected with video conferencing, while others were completely isolated.
We get to re-establish those strong emotional and social bonds that are essential to family unity.
Happiness for Health
Reinforcing these loving connections not only improves our emotional health, but our physical health, as well. When we’re joyful and feeling supported in the company of people we love, the body is flooded with healthy endorphins and countless chemical changes that boost immunity and improve overall health.
One of these changes is an increase in oxytocin, the love hormone that’s responsible for human attachment and bonding. For example, skin-to-skin contact after childbirth and during breastfeeding triggers high levels of oxytocin in both a mother and her baby to secure a strong emotional connection between them. Likewise, we experience surges in oxytocin in romantic relationships or when spending time with loved ones that reinforce the bonds between us.
When we’re with family, our elevated oxytocin levels are protecting us in many ways. Research has shown that oxytocin can protect the thymus gland, promote the development of bone marrow, strengthen immune defenses, and inhibit inflammation. Oxytocin has antibiotic effects as well and protects us against pathogenic microbes, while promoting wound healing and regeneration.
“At the end of the day, no matter what our opinions or choices are, we all want the same thing—health, wealth, happiness, and love.”
It’s particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health. Not only does oxytocin work to heal damaged heart tissue, but it binds to receptors inside the arteries to stimulate the release of calcium, which triggers the production of nitrous oxide (NO) that helps arteries dilate so more blood can flow easier and the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.
Even better, studies show NO compounds inhibit SARS-coronavirus infection and viral replication. This all happens through the neuroendocrine regulation of the immune system via the hypothalamic-pituitary-immune axes and autonomic nervous system, but you don’t have to be concerned with all that to experience the health benefits of oxytocin. All you have to be concerned with is feeling good by being in the company of people you love, and oxytocin will take care of the rest.
In contrast, research consistently shows emotional stress has the opposite effect by generating free radicals and other harmful chemical changes in the body that suppress immune function. In fact, chronic stress is a primary risk factor in nearly all diseases and makes us more susceptible to everything from colds to cancer.
Past Informs the Present
So every new year, especially this one, should be focused on how we can bring our families together rather than dwelling on our differences. If we are committed to conscious living and evolving into greater self-awareness, then it’s up to us to recognize that the things going on in our outer world, whether good or bad, are reflections of deeper issues inside. If our emotional reactions aren’t to our liking, then we must look inside ourselves for the parts of our past that cause us to be unconsciously triggered and set an intention to heal them. Just understanding that most of the time our upset comes from unresolved emotional issues can be enough to keep the fear at bay.
Remember, the goal is to enjoy each other’s company. That requires consciousness, cooperation, and compromise on everyone’s part. That’s what creates connection, not conflict.
Leading by Example
Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a time when an increasing number of people lack the ability to respect opposing opinions and not feel threatened by those who hold them. So many people and social groups are outraged now on a daily basis about some issue that it’s almost impossible not to be affected by the negative energy this constant conflict generates throughout the country. This conflict used to be prominent in just the political realm, but now it’s firmly entrenched in healthcare, as well. In the age of COVID, healthcare and even our personal healthcare choices have become politicized.
Insulating our families from this polarizing effect requires respect for everyone’s individual choices. This used to be a live and let live world where we knew how to respect differing opinions. This keeps us engaged with family and the rest of the world so we don’t check out or retreat from those who disagree with us. The more we engage with others, the better overall quality of life we will have.
“For the world to really heal, we can’t have an Us vs. Them mentality. It’s got to be We. The focus has to be on unity…”
In my practice, I’ve seen many children suffering from depression and anxiety upon returning to school after the drastic lifestyle changes of the last 18 months. They’re having a very hard time transitioning back into a more socially free existence. It’s up to us as adults to lead by example in mitigating our own fears to show them how to create connection with the world and others again. I think the new year provides a lot of opportunities for that, but it can’t happen if we’re caught up in conflict.
Nothing creates a stronger and faster connection between people than love. Of course, acting from fear has the opposite effect. In my daily life as a parent, wife, doctor, sister, friend, customer, perfect stranger, and any other role I find myself in, I know I only have two choices in how I can interact with others. I can choose to act from love or fear. I can create connection or conflict and separation. With this in mind, I’m always asking myself as I go about my day whether my words and actions in a given situation are coming from love or fear.
Unfortunately in the Age of Outrage and COVID, I’m seeing more and more people living unconsciously and making fear-based, reactionary choices without thinking at all. They scream at others, attacking their ideas without a shred of compassion for anyone else’s concerns, which are actually as important, if not more so than their own, when it comes to health and well-being. As more of our children continue to fall prey to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts under the mounting pressure from all this fear and conflict, how we choose to show up in the world every day as adults will determine the future they create because they’re taking their cue from us.
As we learn how to increase connection within our families, let it be our intention for the New Year to go on creating this kind of connection in the world around us no matter what this person or that group believes about something. That’s how we begin to heal a world that’s dividing into even more fractured and opposing groups by the day.
For the world to really heal, we can’t have an Us vs. Them mentality. It’s got to be We. The focus has to be on unity through mutual respect for different life choices. When we do this we teach our children that those with differing opinions don’t threaten our own. More importantly, when we respect the choices of others we protect our own right to live the way we choose, as well.
When we live in a more connected and co-operative way like this it creates more balance in the world, similar to a healthy body that’s in balance. Every cell, organ, tissue, and system not only has to do its own job, but it has to coordinate with all the other cells, organs, tissues, and systems for health to happen. If one organ decided to isolate it. self and pull out of this shared effort disease would occur. If just one cell decided it was only going to look out for its own interests by replicating and supporting more of itself it would result in cancer. I think we can see this metaphor playing out in today’s world where so many people and special interest groups don’t respect the choices of others. Is it any wonder why the world just doesn’t seem to work on any level anymore?
The Ultimate Choice
At the end of the day, no matter what our opinions or choices are, we all want the same thing—health, wealth, happiness, and love. Perhaps finding similarities along those lines would be a good place to start for creating connections.
At the same time, people who create more connections and less conflict in their lives create more opportunities for themselves because all opportunities lie in other people. So setting the intention to make more connections will open the door to a more prosperous New Year in many ways. No matter what your goals are for this year, your odds of achieving them are much greater the more connections you can make.
Whatever your intention for the New Year is, be sure it isn’t just about you. While it might make your life better it should also make the world a better place to live in, as well. How will achieving your intention create greater good beyond your immediate life? How will it create more connections in the world? Just like a cell in the body, you are one cell in the body of all humanity, and every choice you make affects the greater function of the world as a whole. Will it be connection or conflict, love or fear?