When trying to get healthy, most people start with the basics, such as eating better, exercising and getting a full night’s sleep. The problem? Many ignore and even deprioritize the one healthy habit that could transform their lives and improve their well-being: spending time with friends and family. That’s right. Socialization offers substantial health benefits. An active social life boosts mental and physical health. Studies show that those who regularly spend time with friends and family are healthier, less stressed and bounce back from illness much quicker than those who avoid people. Conversely, people who isolate themselves have higher rates of chronic health problems. All in all, socializing is a great habit that can improve overall health. But it doesn’t come easy for everyone. Learn more about the benefits of socializing and how you can improve your social life below.
Benefits of a Strong Social Circle
People who maintain social relationships and have a strong social circle are healthier and live longer, according to a 2010 study. They have fewer illnesses and are able to recover more quickly when they fall ill or are injured. In fact, people with strong social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of surviving a major life event than those who don’t.
But why? Friends can boost your happiness and reduce your stress, both of which can help you ward off common ailments, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. They can also help you cope with emotional and physical trauma. Friends make you feel better about yourself and increase your sense of belonging and purpose. They can even set good examples or help you kick unhealthy habits, such as smoking or sitting on the couch all day via encouragement and celebrating your success.
Health Consequences of Isolation
Isolation, on the other hand, can have deadly consequences. It is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, says Forbes. It is as harmful as living a sedentary life and can be twice as bad as being obese. For this reason, people who do not socialize are at greater risk for early death.
Complete isolation is bad, but minimal socialization and/or limited socialization can be just as bad. For example, someone who has one good friend is a little better off than someone who has zero socialization, but they are not out of the woods entirely. Those who have multiple complex relationships and a rich social life stand to gain the most health benefits. So how do we get there?
How to Improve Your Social Life
It can be difficult to make friends, especially when you're older. It’s even more challenging if you’re a bit introverted or shy. Fortunately, you can improve your social life with a few tweaks.
- Join a club or faith community
- Take classes (art, exercise, writing)
- Attend community events
- Consider moving to an intentional community or cohousing space
- Get involved in a local sport (mountain biking, hiking, kayaking)
- Participate in the PTA or other school events
- Go back to college
- Sell crafts at a local market
- Start a local business
If you’re feeling lonely, get out of the house. Go for a walk. You’d be surprised by how many conversations you can strike up and how many friendships you can create if you’re open to it.
If you have friends and family but don’t see them much, take measures to correct it. Be the first to text or video chat. Ask about their well-being. Invite them over to your house or out to dinner. The more you interact with others, the more they will return the favor.
An active social life, coupled with a strong social circle, is an important step in creating a healthy life. Not only will you feel more satisfied with your life overall, but it seems like you will also enjoy better mental and physical health.
Copyright 2019, Wellness.com