Sure, the holidays can bring on some stress. Travel plans go awry, expenses can bring added worries, and spending time with the family might have drama that comes with it. Without designated time to put our loved ones first, life would pass us by much faster. The years would blend together and we’d likely feel more disconnected than we already do. Not to mention we’d miss out on the traditions and quality time that make us uniquely human.
From your body’s perspective, friends and family do so much for your happiness and health. This isn’t just a “feel good” theory – socializing and being around friends and family has measurable benefits for your physical and mental health. Spending quality time with people even reduces your risk of developing dementia and is better for you than exercise and avoiding tobacco.
You know that good feeling you get after quality time with your favorite people? That’s an actual cognitive boost and oxytocin rush (your trust hormone) you are enjoying. It feels good to interact with the people we love because our brains are developed for socialization.
So, instead of focusing on the stress of the holidays, take time to appreciate the wonderful and fascinating benefits these get-togethers offer you. Beyond the delicious food and thoughtful gifts you’ll receive this holiday season, there are five science-based reasons socializing is good for you. Let’s dig in.
5 Science-backed benefits of socializing
Science shows socializing has both immediate and lasting impacts on your health. Here are a few:
Improves your health significantly.
A huge meta-analysis of 148 studies with 308,849 participants found that stronger social relationships and socializing are a better for your health than exercise. Scientists believe a major reason our brains are so big and complex, is to deal with social interactions.
When you socialize your body releases beneficial hormones and drops stress levels. The more you do this, the easier it becomes for your body to reap the benefits of socializing. This is why isolation isn’t great – it only gets harder to interact with people the longer you isolate yourself. This is your permission to socialize more, even after the holidays – you can make it your 2018 resolution!
Improves your brain health.
Socializing has been found to improve cognitive performance. Socializing is a complex activity because it involves social cues, empathy, and changing interactions. When you are meeting up with friends or family, you’re actually giving your brain a very stimulating exercise. It has to navigate changing scenarios and learn new details. All of this contributes to improved brain function.
How about that – Dealing with all the different personalities in your family is actually a beneficial brain exercise!
You’ll live longer.
Numerous studies have found that people who regularly socialize live longer. This is due to the fact that socializing offers your body so many benefits. Spending time with friends and family makes both your brain and body happier and healthier – the result is a longer, more fulfilling life.
You’ll be happier.
The longest study on happiness has been running for 80 years by the Harvard Medical School. Want to take a guess at what their advice for a happy life is?
You guessed it. Strengthen your relationships.
The project’s director Dr. Robert Waldinger says, “Personal connection creates mental and emotional stimulation, which are automatic mood boosters, while isolation is a mood buster.”
Prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Not only does socializing boost your brain health, it also prevents cognitive decline. When you connect with people, studies have found it improves memory performance and other brain function tests. This is just another testament to how much your brain loves social interaction.
3 Tips for getting the most out of your holiday
What we get out of a scenario strongly depends on the perspective we have going into the situation. If you expect to be stressed out during the holidays, you’re much more likely to be stressed out. Your thoughts have the power to change your perception of reality.
With that in mind here are my favorite tips for getting the most out of your holiday season (even if your family stresses you out):
- Start your day with gratitude. Gratitude exercises have been shown to improve outlook and happiness. Each morning think of three things you’re grateful for and write them down. This is also a good moment to slow down during a time that can feel very fast.
- Reframe inconveniences as gifted time. Whether it be a missed flight, sitting in traffic or waiting in a long line at the store – instead of giving that time to frustration, use it to send a relative a thoughtful note or catch up on your gratitudes.
- Put down your phone. As a society we are lonelier than ever before and scientists largely believe this is due to smartphones. Socialization doesn’t have as potent of an impact on you if you’re locked into your phone. Put your phone down as much as possible during the holidays and connect with the world around you.
We are so busy these days and for many the holidays are the most social time of the year. Really reap the benefits and soak in all that quality time.
Holidays are a time to reconnect with those around you. It’s a time for reflection on all the blessings in your life. Even the tough years have important things to be grateful for – be sure to take the time to appreciate them – your health will thank you.
Happy Holidays from the Dynamic Health Center! We hope you have a safe and joyful holiday with your friends and family.