Local News

May 1, 2013

Stress relief expert stresses importance of relationships

How many people can walk into your home and just open up the refrigerator and help themselves?

“We all have those people. But how many do you have? And where are they?” asked Will Miller on Tuesday at the Hamilton Business Alliance Forum at Hamilton Medical Center. Miller — a therapist, ordained minister, professor at Purdue University and standup comedian — delivered the keynote speech at the luncheon.

Miller, considered an expert on stress and coping with stress, said Americans lead the developed world in stress-related diseases and health problems, and he said a breakdown in the social and family relationships that help us cope with stress contributes to those problems. He noted that in the past, people tended to marry people who lived close to them and settled down near family and lifelong friends.

That is no longer the case.

“Forty to forty-five million Americans move each year. The average American moves every five to six years. That sort of mobility ruptures relationships,” he said.

Miller said television, the Internet and social media also disrupt relationships.

“Every hour you spend looking at a screen is an hour you don’t spend looking at a face,” he said.

This broader breakdown in relationships is also fueling a breakdown in marriages. Miller said successful marriages radiate out into a network of other relationships that can help the partners make it through difficult times.

He said he and Glenn Sparks coined the phrase “refrigerator rights” to describe those with whom someone has a strong bond and a high degree of intimacy. Building such relationships is the key to handling stress.

“Modern psychology has sent people a false message. It says change comes from within, but change can come from working on things outside ourselves,” Miller said.

The Hamilton Business Alliance Forum was sponsored by the Whitfield Healthcare Foundation, which was founded in 1975 to encourage charitable gifts to the not-for-profit Hamilton Health Care System and Hamilton Medical Center.

“This hospital touches every life in our community,” said foundation Chairman Robert Smalley.

Smalley noted the foundation has already gathered $4.6 million in pledges for a $6 million renovation and upgrade of the cardiac and intensive care units.

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