Most of us have been blessed to get at least glimpses into what it feels like to be part of a tribe. Maybe you felt that sense of belonging on your wedding day, when family and friends gathered from afar just to celebrate your awesomeness. Maybe your team won the championship and you all hugged and cried and bonded over team jerseys and mascots.

Maybe that sense of belonging washed over you when you threw your cap into the air on graduation day. Maybe you’ve felt it in church or in your women’s or men’s group or in yoga class or at a personal growth workshop. Maybe you’ve felt it on girl’s night out or when you rushed a fraternity or when you got crowned with your tiara in Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.

Every single one of us craves the feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves. By nature, we are tribal, and back in our caveman days, tribal culture was necessary for survival. But increasingly, we have become disconnected from our tribe. We know our people are out there – somewhere, anywhere – but we feel lost and disconnected from them. We seek them, but they keep eluding us. Without our tribe, we may wind up feeling distanced, depressed, spiritually disconnected, even sick.

The Power Of The Clan

The people of Roseto, Pennsylvania knew this well.

Back in the 1960’s, if you had wandered upon the small town of Italian immigrants, you would have seen people returning from work at the end of the day, strolling along the village’s main street, stopping to gossip with the neighbors, and maybe sharing a glass of wine before heading home to change into dinner clothes.

You’d see women gathering together in communal kitchens, preparing classic Italian feasts, while men pushed tables together in anticipation of the nightly ritual that gathered the community together over heaping piles of pasta, Italian sausage, meatballs fried in lard, and free-flowing vino.

As a community of new immigrants surrounded by English and Welsh neighbors who turned up their noses at the Italians, the people of Roseto had to look out for each other. Multi-generational homes were the norm. During the week, everyone went to the same workplace, and on Sundays, everyone went to church together. Neighbors wandered in and out of each other’s kitchens regularly, and holidays were joyously celebrated communally.

The people of Roseto took care of each other. Nobody in Roseto was left to struggle through life alone. Roseto was living proof of the power of the clan. And while they smoked, drank booze every night, and ate junk food, the people of Roseto had half the risk of heart attack deaths as the rest of the country, not because of genetics, better doctors, or something in their water supply. Researchers ultimately concluded that love, intimacy, and being part of a tribe protected their health.

John Bruhn, a sociologist, recalls, “There was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. They didn’t have anyone on welfare. Then we looked at peptic ulcers. They didn’t have any of those either. These people were dying of old age. That’s it.”

Then Everything Changed…

As time went on, the younger generation wasn’t so thrilled about life in Roseto, which to them seemed immune to modernization. When the young people went off to study at college, they brought back to Roseto new ideas, new dreams, and new people. Italian-Americans started marrying non-Italians. The children strayed from the church, joined country clubs, and moved into single-family suburban houses with fences and pools. 

With these changes, the multi-generational homes disbanded and the community lifestyle shifted gears from nightly celebrations to more of the typical “every man for himself” philosophy that fueled the neighboring communities. The neighbors who would regularly drop in for casual visits started phoning each other to schedule appointments. The evening rituals of adults singing songs while children played with marbles and jacks turned into nights in front of the television.

In 1971, when heart attack rates in other parts of the country were dropping because of widespread adoption of healthier diets and regular exercise programs, Roseto had its first heart attack death in someone younger than 45. Over the next decade, heart disease rates in Roseto doubled. The incidence of high blood pressure tripled. And the number of strokes increased. Sadly, by the end of the 1970’s, the number of fatal heart attacks in Roseto had increased to the national average.

As it turns out, human beings nourish each other, even more than spaghetti, and the health of the body reflects this. 

Intimacy Is Preventative Medicine 

Not only is it human nature to crave intimacy and belonging; it’s also essential preventative medicine. As I write about in my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine (Hay House, 2013), and which I preview in this post, copious scientific data proves that loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise, and finding your tribe is better than any vitamin, diet, or exercise regimen.

One study examining the people of Alameda County, California found that people with the most social ties were three times less likely to have died over a nine-year period than those who reported the fewest social ties. Those with more social connections were even found to have lower rates of cancer.

In fact, a Harvard study examining the lives of almost 3,000 people found that those who gather together to go out to dinner, play cards, go on day trips, vacation with friends, go to the movies, attend sporting events, go to church, and engage in other social activities outlive their reclusive peers by an average of two and a half years. Finding your tribe is not only fun. It can also save your life.

Have Your Found Your Tribe?

If you’re feeling lonely or sick and reading this just depresses you, please don’t despair. I know your people are out there, just yearning to find you. We all belong somewhere, and it’s just a matter of calling in your people. You can read this – 7 Tips For Finding Your Tribe – for guidance on how to attract the authentic community that lights your fire.

Or, if the idea of gathering in community with others committed to lighting up each other’s Inner Pilot Lights resonates with you, I officially invite you to join me and a community of bright sparkly souls.

Find out more about how to become part of this tribe of warm, open-hearted, radiant beings here.  (But hurry up! The deadline for joining this round of our tribal gathering is September 12th.)

Share Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts about how love, intimacy, and a sense of belonging affect health? Share your thoughts and tell your stories here.

Grateful to have you in my tribe,

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  1. Yvonne

    I am loving your posts about finding your tribe and as I begin to clear away what doesn’t feel authentic to my life, I see the right people showing up…

    Thanks for your insights xx

  2. Kay

    Hi Lissa,

    Fascinating post and highlights just how much connectedness means to us. I’ve read before about the strong ties of Italian families being partially responsible for their longevity, despite a sometimes less than optimal diet. Also, there was a study conducted on the elderly in Okinowa Japan that bore out the same results-after diet, the high amount of social interaction and the fact that the elderly were treated as living treasures contributed greatly to good health in old age.

    We literally need community to thrive and this is illustrated in so many cultures, to the point where the Arabic word for “mankind” means to communicate and be social! I think that we can do so much more to lift up ourselves, each other and the world when we come together on common ground. I’m working to rally a tribe around the holistic treatment of autoimmune diseases and while it’s a challenge, I know it can be done. Thanks for the reminder of how important community is!

  3. Mike Goncalves

    What an absolutely wonderful piece of writing. So happen I came across this post. Thanks Lissa.

  4. Doctor Bela

    My reflections about Soul Urge, Soul Alignment, Free Will, Courage & Soul Family/ Soul Tribe:

    Courage= Action to Satisfy the Urge of the Soul

    Recently a friend asked me about the role of “free will” in doing what feels like Soul Path or Soul Urge.
    It made me think and while I was responding to him, it became clear to myself. So, many thanks to that friend first.
    Here is what I wrote:

    I will say it’s my free will to keep myself positive, avoid negative situations/people and care for my Soul, body & mind (Soul comes first because Soul is THE most important). If this means uprooting myself and planting myself somewhere which is in my Soul alignment, I would do it- college/ job/ relationship /city /country etc etc. I advise the same to others.

    If your body and mind are not aligned to your Soul, your vehicle will not run smoothly, it will keep making noises till you get it repaired/ aligned/change parts or buy a new one.

    Now, here comes Courage as a verb, as action (as Carolyn Myss puts it). Most people know the theory but are afraid of action. Fear is not the vocabulary of the Soul, Courage is! If one doesn’t act despite knowing what is best for their Soul and say it is my free will to suffer—- let it be—- one day everyone will get it— may take life times but the goal is happily in alignment with the Soul.

    What I understood recently is : The physical body, which is given so much importance, is just a vehicle. Family members are family of physical body only. Soul is supreme. Soul-family/ tribe is most of the times different from physical body family. Keeping yourself in company of your Soul-family/ tribe helps you to grow and be happy.
    You will feel safe and cared for with your Soul family. My friends, my teachers and a few of my family members (all over the world) are my Soul family/ tribe. I act to keep in touch with my Soul family to support me, to help me grow & be cheerful.

    I always considered friends as my family from school days. I even pleaded to my mother to put me in a Boarding School in second grade so I be near friends. Now I get it: my Soul Urge was at play then. My mother thankfully recognized this and made it happen despite living from hand to mouth. I (my mind) did not know the exact significance until now but my Soul knew it all along that Friends are Soul family/ Tribe!

    I am forever grateful to my Soul Family/ Tribe, my dearest Mother and my Soul (the Divine within me) for giving me this wisdom.

    Dr. Bela

  5. Sarah Haykel

    This is SO GREAT Lisa! I’m SO HAPPY I found you again. It’s been YEARS since I read one of your blogs and I just LOVE YOU! Thanks love, Sarah


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