You know a coffee with a friend at the end of the day makes you happy. A weekend brunch with your favourite people makes your heart feel lighter and you feel ready to take on the week. You have heard that innumerable times that we are social animals and you have felt it to be real. But it goes much deeper than that. Hanging out with your friends or making new ones does not just make you feel good, it scientifically makes your body and mind healthier. Surprised? Let’s take a look at science has to say about socialising and health.

Friends make your immune system stronger

Pretty young women having lunch in the restaurant

The bigger your social network the better your immune system. But take note we don’t mean your online social network. Much as we would like it your Facebook friends cannot protect you from infections. A recent American study involving 276 subjects infected with rhinovirus found that the individuals who met their friends six or more times in a period of two weeks were four times less likely to suffer from the symptoms than other test subjects. The study concludes that solidarity and community have bigger impact on our life than diet, exercise regimens, and genetic dispositions.

It reduces stress, helps with depression, and prevents anxiety

Digital Image by Sean Locke Digital Planet Design www.digitalplanetdesign.com

Researchers from the University of Dublin think that forging new social connections or fostering old ones helps build self esteem. This in turn enables better relationships and helps people feel more connected and cared for. It mitigates feelings of loneliness which are the among the biggest causes of disconnection and anxiety. There are other studies that confirm this. In a paper in the Journal of Affective Disorders psychologists found people ho did not identify with a social group had a 50 percent more likelihood of continued depression a month later. According to the paper, there is clear evidence that joining groups, and coming to identify with them,can alleviate depression. All of this goes to show that your social group is your major source of encouragement and support in more profound ways than we have understood until now.

It boosts your brain’s cognitive capacities

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People reap cognitive benefits from socialising. Studies suggest that socialising can be as effective towards improving the mind as doing a daily crossword puzzle. A recent study from the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) confirmed this. In this  study, socialising was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance. Increased social interaction leads to better cognitive function as it constantly engages and exercises the mind. It has even been said to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease! So, the next time you have an important test or exam to study for, have a quick chat with a friend over the phone or in person. You may find yourself passing with flying colours.

It potentially protects you from cancer

Socialising with others may help fight cancer, according to research showing that the stress of interaction causes tumours to shrink and even go into remission. Socialising results in what is called “positive stress”. It is when what you perceive as a stressful situation results in positive results. None of us are exactly comfortable in social milieus. But this stress has great effects on your body. Researchers have found that when cancer patients are moved into lodgings that ease social interactions their recovery is sped up.

The complex connections between the mind and the body are uncharted waters. We are only now beginning to understand the complex intermeshes that they create. The affect each other in ways unexplored before, and the effects of social interaction of both the mind and the body are very interesting.

What do you think?

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