Love Like Your Life Depends on it

One day after she delivered her TedxBYU talk on the importance of social relationships, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at BYU, found out her father was hospitalized with a terminal condition. She dropped her professional work to spend every day with him before he died two and a half weeks later.

Then her mother passed away.

“I lost both of my parents within two and a half weeks. But I had that incredible time with them before they passed that I’ll treasure forever,” Holt-Lunstad says, becoming emotional. “Really, the most important things in our life are our relationships.”

Holt-Lunstad’s extensive research focuses on the long-term health effects of social connection. Her professional portfolio includes providing expert testimony in a U.S. Congressional hearing, advising the U.S. Surgeon General in the Emotional Well-Being in America Initiative, and serving as a scientific advisor for the Australian Coalition to End Loneliness.

Andy Proctor, a member of the TedxBYU curation committee, said Holt-Lunstad was chosen as a speaker because of her significant contribution to health and psychological sciences as well as the relevance of her message. “Her idea that social connection is one of the most important things we can do for our health is novel and the committee believed deeply it was an idea worth spreading,” Proctor says.

In her talk, Holt-Lunstad says that a lack of social connection poses a health risk similar to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

“It’s time to prioritize our relationships like our life depends on it — because it does,” she says.

Holt-Lunstad began her research by looking at the effects of stress on health. She found that when experiencing the same levels of stress, blood pressure spikes were lower among people with supportive relationships, but more exaggerated in people with few supportive relationships. Expanding their research, she and her colleagues analyzed data from over 300,000 people worldwide and found that those with social connections increased their chance of living longer by 50%. On the other hand, the likelihood of death is increased 26% by being lonely, 29% by social isolation, and 32% by living alone.

Holt-Lunstad points to several ways we can improve our social connections.

1. Make time for relationships

Although making time for relationships can be challenging, there is no substitute for the benefits everyone gains from positive social relationships. They are as important to health as diet and exercise.

2. Discover your preferences

And just like diet and exercise, individual preferences for social interaction varies. People should find the type of social interaction that works best for them, whether that looks like informal gatherings or planned social activities, and whether it’s in large groups or more intimate settings.

3. Make the first move

Loneliness can be a vulnerable, stigmatizing feeling. And those feelings can make it difficult to make the first move when trying to build social relationships. But Holt-Lunstad says that feeling is normal and can be overcome. “One really empowering way to break the ice is to look for others who might need help or who might need a friend.”

4. Serve others

One of the best ways we can help ourselves is by helping others. Holt-Lunstad shared, “There is significant research that shows that providing support to others or doing small acts of kindness for others actually significantly reduces our own loneliness and increases a sense of social bonding between you and the other person. That’s something any one of us can do.”

Holt-Lunstad is currently working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL) to create a national clearinghouse for interventions to address loneliness and social isolation. She is also working with the Gravity Project to make recommendations for national standards for representing social isolation in electronic health records, and serving as the scientific chair of the Foundation for Social Connection and the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness.

Learn more about Julianne Holt-Lunstad’s research.

Hickman lecture 2018: How passion can change your life and relationships

Relationships aren’t only meant to be enjoyed in the next life. They are conditions of salvation itself. This is why passion is so significant in our journey through life. In the 13th Annual Martin B. Hickman lecture, Professor of Family Life, Dean Busby highlights the ways in which passion is crucial and beautiful in our lives and relationships.

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Professor Dean Busby

To begin his discussion, Busby teaches the importance of passion from the perspective of its difficulties, asserting that passion is hard to hold onto. “You need people who can give you examples,” he says, “and inspire and show you that it takes courage.” One such example is Andrea Bocelli, a blind singer passionate about opera. He was told his dream to sing opera was impossible; he wouldn’t be able to see the conductor or engage with the audience. Originally, he was discouraged until he found a master who taught him to be guided by his passion in order to achieve excellence.

What is passion? According to Busby’s definition, passion is something you sacrifice and “exert substantial effort towards.” It “becomes part of who you are or what you identify with,” he says. A passion isn’t an interest you dabble in occasionally; it is a pursuit in which you wish to improve and enjoy further, and for which you will lay aside other aspects of your life. Passions are “central to identity” and “represent each person’s unique and fundamental way of being who they are.”

Busby says, “We are drawn to people who are passionate…Who we are has no meaning except in relationships with others.” This is why passions are very relational, and therefore, vital to our happiness in this life. We must cultivate them now to grow and expand our intellect and spirituality, as well as to become like God. Passion isn’t important just to bring us pleasant satisfaction, it’s essential to life on earth, says Busby. As President Hinckley said, “Life is to be enjoyed, not endured.”

Passion asserts itself in multiple styles. Low passion or lack thereof is known as over-regulated or inhibited, while excess passion is called under-regulated or obsessive. The ideal amount of passion is a harmonious balance between the two. According to Busby, there are many types of passion, including creative, physical, emotional, relational and spiritual/ intellectual. Sexual passion encompasses all of these and is a central factor in healthy relationships, and all passion types contribute in different ways to a fulfilling life. While following passions in areas of work, school and family can be difficult, the right amount of passion brings satisfaction not found any other way.

For the full 2018 Hickman lecture, click here or watch below.

2018 Cutler Lecture recap: Addressing the universal need for love and security

BYU Marriage and Family Therapy professor Jonathan Sandberg’s thought-provoking Cutler Lecture can be encapsulated in a simple scene from Winnie the Pooh:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. 
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

The need to feel connected and loved is a universal need.

Safe and secure relationships form when individuals in the relationship are responsive to and accessible by the other individual. The isolation created by taking away this accessibility and responsiveness is traumatizing.

In a disconnected world, it is vital that we form and foster relationships where we truly see people and their needs and truly love them. Feeling loved and recognized gives us a secure base from which we can launch and explore other aspects of life.

Be vulnerable and seek out deep, meaningful and loving connections and relationships. Repair conflict in your relationships. Be hopeful in developing secure attachments and relationships with others–even if you have not experienced those relationships in the past. And find ways to be emotionally accessible, responsive and engaged with others on a daily basis.

People are in need of love and security and we are the ones who can help them.

For the full 2018 Cutler Lecture, watch the video below.

Passion for life, passion for others: 2018 Hickman lecture to teach the place for passion

Life is a constant search for balance.

Especially in religious living, it can be difficult to find a place for passion. But passion for what we love improves our minds and makes relationships beautiful.

At the 2018 Martin B. Hickman Lecture on Thursday, November 1 at 11 a.m. in 250 KMBL, BYU School of Family Life Professor Dean Busby will speak on how we can appropriately use passion to foster appreciation for life and loved ones in his lecture “The Place of Passion in Our Lives and Our Relationships.” The lecture is a free event and is open to the public.

Professor Busby has a Ph. D. in Family Therapy from Brigham Young University and taught Syracuse University and Texas Tech University before returning to BYU. Since his return, he has played a prominent role in the School of Family Life as the Graduate Coordinator of the Marriage, Family, and Human Development M.S. and Ph. D. programs, as well as the Director of the School of Family Life.

The lecture is in honor of Martin Berkeley Hickman, a BYU political science professor who served as the dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences from 1970-1986. He helped make possible the Women’s Research Institute, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Family Studies Center. As for teaching, Hickman is recognized as the father of BYU’s American Heritage program. Hickman was renowned for his loyalty and dedication to his family, the Church, the college and BYU.

The Martin B. Hickman Scholar Award is given annually to recognize a notable college faculty who follows Hickman’s example of service and dedication.