Column: Dr Waldinger On Joy Of Kite Flying

March 26, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Opinion column written by Dr Robert J. Waldinger]

Good Friday is just around the corner, which means Bermudians across the island are getting their tissue paper and kite strings ready. Did you know, though, that the simple act of flying a kite, a tradition deeply ingrained in Bermuda’s culture, might also provide unexpected health benefits?

In Bermuda, it’s not just about flying kites: it’s a cherished family affair. Generations gather to share knowledge – and fishcakes in hot cross buns! – to create, and to enjoy the simple pleasure of watching their creations take flight against the backdrop of a clear, azure sky. This long-held tradition brings families together, fostering warm relationships and creating shared memories.

Dr Robert J. Waldinger Bermuda March 2024

Simple, childlike pastimes like kite flying bring immense happiness because they rekindle a spirit of play that many of us lose in adulthood. We can get bogged down in the day-to-day routine of life and often forget to make time for enjoyment – and, more importantly, each other. Physical fun, spontaneity, and communal activities all bring us pleasure. Continuity of traditions across generations also helps us feel connected to our history, families, and communities. Traditions like this reinforce our identity and bring a sense of belonging not just within the communities in which we reside, but the biological and chosen families each of us embrace.

Happiness influences our health and permeates all aspects of our lives. It triggers physiological processes that studies show protect our health. Social isolation and loneliness, on the other hand, can lead to higher levels of circulating cortisol and chronic inflammation – serious issues which can slowly break down body systems. Research indicates isolations, loneliness and depression can impact our coronary arteries and joints and are as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Conversely, cultivating warm relationships and experiencing happiness protects us from these health hazards with laughter, warmth and touch being shown to positively influence our health. Additionally, happiness in one area of life flows into other areas. So, if we’re happy at home, we’re more likely to be happy at work, and vice versa.

Dr Robert J. Waldinger Kite Flying Column Bermuda March 2024

So, this Good Friday, I encourage everyone to embrace the tradition of kite flying. Take a moment to pause, look up, take a deep breath, and live in the moment. Create new memories with your loved ones, enjoy the simple pleasure of seeing your kite soar high and remember the vital role that happiness and warm relationships play in your health. Let’s go fly a kite!

- Dr Robert J. Waldinger, Director, Harvard Study of Adult Development, Massachusetts General Hospital

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