We could all use a little stress relief these days, even our children.
One good way to take tension down a notch could be as simple as sitting down to eat together. The benefits appear to be the greatest for families, a survey conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) finds.
One thousand adults aged 18 and up took part in the AHA Family Meals Survey in September 2022. Approximately two-thirds of those who participated said they were at least somewhat stressed, and over 25 percent reported being very or extremely stressed.
Chronic stress is not good for anyone. It can disrupt your body’s normal functioning and lead to many health issues including anxiety, depression, muscle tension and pain, weight gain, an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and more.
Sharing a meal with others reminded participants of the importance of connecting with friends and family and slowing down for a break.
“Sharing meals with others is a great way to reduce stress, boost self-esteem and improve social connection, particularly for kids,” said Erin Michos, an Associate Professor of Medicine within the Division of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and an American Heart Association volunteer, in a statement.
Sharing a meal with family, friends or co-workers is an effective way to reduce stress, the survey found. Over ninety percent of parents said their family experienced less stress when they eat together as a family. This isn’t always possible, however. The majority of those surveyed — 84 percent — also said they wished they could eat with loved ones more often.
The benefits of eating together are not just for families. Almost 70 percent of people who worked said if they had more time for a break at work or could share a meal with a co-worker, they would not feel as stressed at work.
Beyond stress relief, the people surveyed said that sharing a meal with others reminded them of the importance of connecting with friends and family and slowing down for a break. Nearly 60 percent said they made healthier food choices when eating with others.
It sounds simple, but in reality we know it is often difficult to coordinate schedules with others to be able to share a meal. Set a goal of meeting with family, friends or coworkers just once more a week, Michos suggests, and go from there. Even if you have to share a meal virtually, it’s better than eating alone.
That's why every Tuesday through December the AHA will share inexpensive and practical meal tips that encourage mealtime togetherness. The tips should make it a little easier to enjoy the heart, mind and body benefits that come from eating with others.
You can follow #TogetherTuesday on Facebook or Twitter. To get tips sent directly to your phone: just text 2gether to 51555. Sign up and read more about the survey here.