Social activity has immense benefits for your mental, physical and emotional health. Loneliness is probably the largest silent killer in the world now.
We are isolated more and more. This has a huge impact on our well-being, Dr. Magdy Badran says.
Being sociable has helped our species to not only survive but also thrive over millions of years. Although circumstances and relationships change, social activities must remain a priority in your life.
In a variety of ways, social ties may influence health habits that in turn affect physical health and mortality. There are three broad ways that social ties work to influence health: behavioral, psychosocial, and physiological.
Social relationships affect health behavior and mortality risk. Social ties influence health behavior, in part, because they influence, or “control,” our health habits.
For example, a spouse may monitor, inhibit, regulate, or facilitate health behaviors in ways that promote a partner’s health.
Religious ties also appear to influence health behavior, in part, through social control. Social ties can instill a sense of responsibility and concern for others that then lead individuals to engage in behaviors that protect the health of others, as well as their health.
Social ties create norms that further influence health habits.
The psychosocial mechanisms that explain how social ties promote health are social support, personal control, norms, and mental health.
Hundreds of studies establish that social support benefits mental and physical health.
Social support may have indirect effects on health through enhanced mental health, by reducing the impact of stress, or by fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Supportive social ties may trigger physiological sequelae (e.g., reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones) that are beneficial to health and minimize unpleasant arousal that instigates risky behavior.
Social ties may enhance personal control (perhaps through social support), and, in turn, personal control is advantageous for healthy habits, mental health, and physical health.
Mental health is a pivotal mechanism that works in concert with each of the other mechanisms to shape physical health.
For instance, the emotional support provided by social ties enhances psychological well-being, which, in turn, may reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviors and poor physical health.
The World Health Organization identifies mental health as an essential dimension of overall health status.
Stress in relationships contributes to poor health habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Stress contributes to psychological distress and physiological arousal (e.g., increased heart rate and blood pressure) that can damage health through cumulative wear and tear on physiological systems, and by leading people of all ages to engage in unhealthy behaviors (e.g., food consumption, heavy drinking, smoking) in an effort to cope with stress and reduce unpleasant arousal.
Emotionally supportive childhood environments promote the healthy development of regulatory systems, including immune, metabolic, and autonomic nervous systems, as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, with long-term consequences for adult health.
Social support in adulthood reduces physiological responses such as cardiovascular reactivity to both anticipated and existing stressors.
Indeed, continuously married adults experience a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those who have experienced a marital loss, in part due to the psychosocial supports conferred by marriage.
Health Benefits of Being Social
We are social beings, and interacting with people is in our nature. Social interaction is important to feel valued and needed. We need a safe way to express ourselves and a strong support network in case of misfortune. If we lack this, our health suffers.
Humans are born into social groups and live their entire lives as a part of society, so the social element can’t easily be removed from the evolution of an individual.
As human beings, we dream, learn, grow, and work as part of society. The society that we’re born into and the societies that we navigate throughout our lives shape our identities.
Maintaining relationships becomes more vital as we grow older, to avoid falling into isolation and loneliness, which can lead to health issues such as depression, heart disease, and even dementia.
Throughout our lives, we have many opportunities to build and maintain relationships. Some of these relationships grow and mature with us, while others fall away due to ever-changing life circumstances.
Increased Physical Health
People who engage in relationships tend to be more active, improving their physical health through their social activities.
Additionally, they are also more motivated to maintain physical health to keep up with their peers.
Social relationships have as much impact on physical health as blood pressure, smoking, physical activity, and obesity.
Negative social interactions not only influence psychological well-being but also blood pressure levels. Negative interactions between friends and family led to an increase in hypertension risk.
Women are particularly sensitive to negative interactions. Women care more about and pay more attention to the quality of their relationships.
A low quantity or quality of social ties are linked with the development and progression of cardiovascular disease, recurrent myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and delayed cancer recovery and slower wound healing.
It was found that, among adults with coronary artery disease, the socially isolated had a risk of subsequent cardiac death 2.4 times greater than their more socially connected peers.
Boosted Immune System
The immune system directly affects – and even controls – creatures’ social behavior, such as their desire to interact with others. This new fact could have significant implications for neurological diseases such as autism-spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.
The immune system and the brain are not isolated from one another as previously thought but connected through a system of lymphatic vessels.
The immune system may play a key role in controlling and shaping social behavior.
Poor immune system may lead to anti-social behavior. The immune system directly affects and even controls social behavior. It affects the desire to interact with others, and that problems in the immune system could contribute to the inability to interact.
Your immune system is intrinsically linked to your stress levels. Chronic stressors suppress immune function and increase a host’s susceptibility to disease.
Socially active people have healthy immune systems, allowing them to fight colds, cases of flu and other ailments, more easily.
They also tend to have better-eating habits, as social gatherings tend to incorporate food and meals. Eating with others usually leads to choosing healthier options as well.
More Positive Outlook on Life
Those who enjoy conversations and friendly debate with peers keep their minds and memories active and engaged too. Staying connected with others makes us feel more connected to the world and increases our sense of belonging.
People who engage in creating intentional connections with others improve their mood and overall outlook on life. Keeping our brains active and engaged can sharpen our minds and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Face-to-Face Contact is Like a Vaccine
With the age of cyber chatting and texting, people are starting to push aside actual human contact in communication.
Direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a “cocktail” of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety.
It is like a vaccine, it protects you now, in the present, and well into the future, so simply shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.
Dopamine is generated, which gives us a little high and it kills pain, it’s like a naturally produced morphine.
The benefits of face to face communication are numerous, it protects the confidentiality, and enhances trust and credibility.
One of the benefits of face to face communication is the live feedback translated through the body language and facial expressions. More than 90% of human communication consists of body language.
When you see the way that the person you are talking to reacts, you can better understand how they are feeling. You can show your reactions and emotions.
Face to face communication is a great form of persuasion, engagement, and leadership. It builds relationships and enhancing future communication.
It provides a feeling of friendliness which, in turn, boosts the success of your relationships, whether they are personal or business relationships.
Social Motivation and Brain Power
Connecting with friends may also boost your brain health and lower your risk of dementia. By interacting with others, we train our brains.
Social motivation and social contact can help to improve memory formation and recall and protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
When we learn with the purpose of sharing our knowledge with others, we learn better. People who exercised in a group rather than on their own had decreased stress levels and had better mental and physical well-being.
A Tool for Happiness and Longevity
An active social life has been linked to a stronger sense of well-being and a longer life span.
Finally, enjoying close social ties — with friends, partners, or family members — can make us happy and improve our overall life satisfaction in the long run.
Being happier, learning better, and living longer are all advantages that should motivate even the most dedicated of loners to get out there and mingle.
To boost your social engagement. Here are some ideas to get you started. Exercise with a friend by walking, swimming, or going to the gym together.
Volunteer at your favorite charity organization. Visit a museum with a friend and chat about what you see.
Participate in a neighborhood or community group. Use skype or facetime to catch up with family and friends from a distance. Walkthrough your neighborhood and make a point of stopping to say hello to people you meet.
Babysit your grandkids or help them with homework. Sign up for a class at your local recreation center, library, or university.
Attend religious services. Sing in a choir or play music in a group. Have a friend or family member over for coffee or tea.
Now close your browser and give that old friend of yours a call.