Whilst friendships and social interactions can pose some pressures and we may experience stress and anxiety involved with forming and maintaining relationships, the benefits are just too good to ignore! It has been found that the positive effects of social interaction are not just limited to interactions with people in which we have close bonds (e.g. family and friends), but more broadly our social interactions with acquaintances or even relative strangers has been found to positively contribute to our wellbeing.
Research suggests that healthy social interactions and connections have profound positive effects on our wellbeing:
- Decreases risk of and reduces the impact of mental illness (depression and anxiety)
- Improves problem solving abilities
- Encourages creativity
- Increases empathy, compassion and altruism
- Assists in the development of identity and self-esteem (across the lifespan)
- Increases confidence
- Provides a sense of belonging and purpose
- Reduces the risk of serious physical illness
- Increased academic performance (in school students)
- Enhances communication and negotiation skills
- Releases Oxytocin ‘the love hormone’ which triggers a number of flow on effects that make us feel calm, happy and relaxed.
So, the importance of getting out there, pushing our limits and engaging with others is clear to see. Staying connected with family and friends or reaching out to develop new relationships has never been more appealing. Whilst it may be challenging, it is also important for parents to support your child to reap the rewards of social interactions listed above while also encouraging them to see the benefits for themselves. This may be as simple as setting up a hang out with existing friends, joining a new sporting team or community group, or teaching your kids some simple tips for striking up new friendships.
With the rise in technology, it has never been easier either. We can now stay connected via phone call, texts, Instagram, snapchat, Instagram, facetime, email and so much more. But keep in mind, nothing beats face-to-face, real-life interaction!
So, make plans to catch up with friends over coffee, go for lunch, join a new sporting team, go for a walk, meet new people – all of these will give you an opportunity to feel and experience the positive effects of social interaction. Weather we opt for intimate 1:1 interactions, larger social gatherings or get-togethers, or interactions with people we hardly know, the evidence suggests that these interactions are great for our health in so many ways.
Regardless of how we choose to go about social engagement, what is important is that we are getting involved, and that what we do, we enjoy! So today, have a look at your calendar and book out some time to enjoy the benefits of social interactions.