Earlier this week, my friend Jackie texted me and said she would be in town if we could have lunch. She gets me and understands my life is crazy. She doesn’t try to fix me, she just listens. Where would I be without my friends?
Amid a crazy life. I need social interaction with people who listen and share with me. I’d spent the better part of my week in stressful circumstances and time filled with someone who understands is very healing. A good friend helps you find rest.
Friends show up when you are down, they will press in when you are overwhelmed, and remind you that there is HOPE. Why are we drawn to certain people and not others? What’s the difference between people who are friends for life and those who pass through our lives for a season?
Some studies indicate a direct correlation between the level of social interactions and mental and physical health. Surprisingly, highly social people with poor habits like smoking and inactivity often outlive people who practiced a healthier lifestyle. These consistent research findings from several studies make it impossible to ignore the importance of a solid social network as a required prerequisite to a long and healthy life.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Why Social Interaction Has Health Benefits
There have been many studies that look at the health benefits of being more social. Thinking about it logically –makes sense. When you socialize with other people, you have validation for your feelings, someone to talk to when you need to, and emotional support on both ends. You not only support them when they need it, but they can support you as well. A social experience is a beautiful thing for everyone involved, making it essential to be as social as possible, even if you are more of an introverted personality.
Negative Physical Consequences of Loneliness
Neuroscientist John Cacioppo discussed his research findings reported in his latest book, “Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.” Loneliness can compromise your health because stress hormones are higher, lowering your immune system and heart function. Also, premature aging is yet another side effect of loneliness. Additionally, people suffering from loneliness demonstrated more bad habits that only added to health problems. Lonely people drink more and sleepless. This group also tends to eat less healthy and overindulge in fatty foods.
Mental Problems Associated with Low Social Interaction Levels
Depression is a significant problem that isolated people endure. This group of people often experience serious mental health problems associated with higher stress levels and a lack of meaning in their life. It is common for mental health to deteriorate even more if the isolation continues, undermining self-esteem and a sense of purpose for being alive.
Communities at Risk
The major high-risk community segments are senior citizens, chronically ill people, and people who lose a spouse through divorce or death. While there are groups of people with circumstances who may temporarily fall into an isolated lifestyle through unemployment or a move to a new area, older people represent one of the most vulnerable groups. They are at risk for isolation due to inevitable changes in their life and health. The more people recognize this reality, the better the chances for avoiding the isolation that can lead to unhappiness and worsening overall health.
The studies are conclusive. We are social creatives that can only thrive by interacting with other people. All people must make an effort to stay social and engage with others even when it may be easier to isolate. Since loneliness can be the start of a downward spiral health-wise, recognizing the necessity for reaching out to others for help is crucial. While the internet offers one opportunity for outreach, there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
I am Shirley Noah, author and an internationally known stress expert and entrepreneur. I would love to connect further with you to help you improve your health and wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more about self-care, please take a look at my popular course Self Care the Art of A Happier More Peaceful Self.