Yes, you may have received a gazillion likes on Instagram, weigh in on group chats on iMessage daily, and your Snapchat streaks? OFF the charts! But, if the majority of your social interactions come from your activity on social media, you may be missing out on some serious health benefits that come from bonding with your pals in person!
Research shows a clear link between social relationships and health – and no, we don’t mean the virtual kind. We mean the physical aspects of social engagement. The kind where you actually meet a friend for coffee without staring at your phone screen the entire time, or attending a social gathering and NOT recording the entire event on your Instagram story.
In person interaction is shown to be more beneficial to health and well being for various reasons. When developing the idea of Mirror Neurons, italian neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti saw that when you physically see a person do an action, your brain lights up the neuron with the associated action. For example, if you physically see your friend smile while engaging in conversation, your brain will want to smile too! Another study shows that shaking hands leads the centers of the brain associated with rewards to activate (which unfortunately, cannot be done over FaceTime). In person interaction enhances pleasure in the brain that reduces stress and promotes longevity.
As we’ve mentioned, people living in Blue Zone regions live longer and healthier lives than anywhere else in the world. In part, this is due to the emphasis they put on forming social bonds. People in these regions thrive from daily interactions with their community and loved ones. Here are some of the reasons why they do it and why you should too!
Social relationships improve mental and physical health
Did you know that simply hanging out with your friends increases your chance of a living a longer, healthier life? Uh, seems easy enough!
A study published in the American Sociological Association found that people with the lowest amount of involvement in social relationships are more likely to die from disease than those who are more socially connected. Additionally, people who engage in more social interaction are less likely to suffer from severe depression.
Motivated to schedule your next friend date?
Quality matters more than Quantity
You know the old saying, “quality over quantity?” Yeah, it’s actually true! Many people often get consumed with how much of something they have, rather than how much they value it. But, research shows that the number of social connections you have doesn’t matter as much as the value you place on those connections. Social interactions are able to benefit health to the extent that they are perceived satisfactory (Fiorillo and Sabatini).
Yes, it might be tempting to follow everyone on your list of Instagram suggestions in hopes you’ll experience “utmost happiness” when the little number on the top of your account goes up. But, the next time you have a stress episode over that number, remind yourself that you might be happier focusing on the people in your life who you truly value. So instead of worrying about the quantity of your interactions, make a call to set up a home cooked dinner with your family or fondest friends, text a close pal to go for a walk right now, or even plan a date night out with your significant other. These are just some of the ways to use this quality time!
Social interaction is just as important to your health as diet and exercise
No, we don’t recommend completely disregarding the latter, BUT social interaction is extremely beneficial for your health.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina gathered data from the U.S. population on people’s blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index, and a protein that’s a common marker for inflammation. They surveyed 14,000 people and one key finding was that socially isolated adolescents face the same risk for developing inflammation as those who don’t exercise.
As much as we value eating nutritious, healthy food and exercising regularly, as a company, we also value forming and maintaining social bonds with our community because we see how much it can positively impact our health. So, the next time an old friend calls you to play catch up, or you’re struggling to get yourself to a family gathering, think about the numerous benefits you’ll receive now and in the long run (and maybe put down the phone?).
After all, who doesn’t want to live the longest life possible?