With all of the check-ups, pills, exercise and dieting that we do in the name of protecting our health, it might seem confusing that something as easy and enjoyable as hanging out with friends and family is also good for us. But researchers believe that for teens, adults and senior citizens, regular social interaction is crucial for preserving mental health. Here's why:
1. Reduces stress: It sounds simple, but getting face time with friends and family reduces stress, which is good for your mental and emotional well-being. Whether you're ranting about work, getting perspective on a personal problem you have, or just tuning out all of the things that make you stressed or worried on a regular basis, time spent with friends and peers helps relieve tension and boosts your mood.
2. It helps you feel connected: If you're out at parties, restaurants, clubs and other social events, you're more likely to feel connected and like you're contributing to the greater community. This sense of self is important when evaluating risk factors for depression and even adopting a healthier lifestyle overall.
3. It strengthens your immune system: People who have a strong base of meaningful relationships are generally more happy, and that means a more sufficient immune system. Sad and lonely people, conversely, generally show signs of a weaker immune system.
4. Longer life: Those who have both a broad social circle and frequently spend time with lots of different kinds of people as well as a close confidant or spouse are likely to live longer than those who have no one to care for them or even interest them.
5. Socializing regulates your vitals: Studies have shown that seniors who socialize regularly have lower cholesterol and more stable blood pressure.
This evidence should help you feel better about managing stress and taking time to enjoy life, especially as you age. Isolation doesn't just equal boredom: it can also mean lower self esteem, which translates into higher stress, loneliness, depression, poor physical health and cognitive decline. Make a point to join clubs, attend church or spiritual events, exercise with a group, or just meet a friend for coffee a couple of times a week. You'll thank yourself for it.
This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the masters of healthcare degrees. She welcomes your feedback at MeredithWalker1983 at gmail.com