By Carol Phillips
Socializing is good for the brain. Humans are social creatures. Personal interaction stimulates the brain and challenges our thought processes. Simply exchanging a few words with a sales associate while you are running errands will spark enough activity in your brain to jump-start you into mental exercise mode. Yes, we need to exercise our brains as well as our bodies.
As different areas of health are often connected, socializing can benefit other important aspects of health besides brain function. For example, if you decide to join a hiking group to make new friends, you will also be increasing your exercise. One healthy decision often automatically leads to another. Joining the hiking group to meet new friends gets the ball rolling, and the increase in physical activity that results from being part of the group helps the ball pick up speed.
Socializing is important at any age and seems to become crucial as we enter our senior years. Have you ever watched the news when they interview people who have just turned 100 years old? Centenarians are typically asked what they feel is their secret to longevity. I always listen for the pearls of wisdom that come from the mouths of these wonderful members of society. Frequently, one secret is their continued efforts to socialize. Heeding their precious advice is certainly a healthy decision.
If someone asked you right now, “What are all the ways you socialize in a typical week or month?” What would be your answer? Is your current level of socialization sufficient to keep your brain stimulated to ensure health? Would the list be so long that the question of life balance comes into play and a healthy decision would be to schedule some down time?
Your personality type also plays a part in what is considered a healthy and balanced level of socializing. For example, the amount of socializing deemed healthy for an extroverted person may be far more than what an introverted person could handle. While one person may love being the social butterfly in large groups, another person may seek one-on-one socialization.
One way I challenge myself to be more social is to initiate conversations with strangers when I’m out running errands or when I’m in other situations in which I could easily choose to keep to myself. I purposely make eye contact, smile, and say “Hi.” Although being this outgoing is not always easy for me, I’ve met some very nice people this way, and I always feel better afterward. They seem happier after our conversations, too.
Another simple way to socialize and meet new people at the same time is to invite a few friends out to do something fun and ask them to invite other people they know. A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet. Make it effortless to meet them and reap the healthy rewards.
What works for you? Do you have a healthy balance of socializing in your life? If you do, celebrate your efforts and share what works for you with others who may seem isolated. If you don’t have a healthy balance, focus on what would interest you. People often find volunteering for a cause they support to be an easy first step. Lending a hand will give you many opportunities to socialize.
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. She helps companies significantly reduce costs and increase productivity through a new approach to wellness. Based in Manchester, N.H., she can be reached through her website at www.HealthDesignNH.com.