Socialize… | Choose Joy

…Even when you don’t want to, especially when you don’t want to. Those with emotional issues can become a bit secluded, opting for the familiar and comfortable over the new and scary. Maybe you have social anxiety, maybe you’re depressed. Maybe you just don’t want to put on a happy face in front of others. Maybe socializing means seeing people you know very well (who can see through any false smiles) or meeting new ones (notching up that anxiety to critical levels), and it might seem safer just to avoid the whole thing entirely.

The Benefits of Socialization:

I understand. I like to socialize when I’m doing it. I’ll be glad I went to that party (read here get-together—I am not a partier and all it implies) or a concert or a museum (or a Church picnic), but the period before that is my difficulty. I like my comfort zone. But the thing is, there’s something about socializing, about coming together with other humans. Did you know that people are lonelier now than ever before because of technology, that thing that’s supposed to connect us? It’s crazy, right? I could go on about that, but for now, just look at why socializing with other humans is so good for you emotionally, mentally, and physically, according to Harvard Medical School:

  • Happier. Happiness is directly proportional to your social interactions.
  • Reduces stress. What’s better than talking things out with friends and family? Definitely better than keeping all that pent-up. Plus, you might get some surprising insights from others at problems plaguing you. This has mental and physical implications.
  • Fewer health problems. You know those physical implications? Well stress is not just mental, but physical, manifesting as the hormone cortisol. It can hurt the heart, immune system, and virtually the entire body. On the flip side, socialization sets off stress-reducing hormones.
  • Live longer. Regardless of your health, those with tons of human interaction tend to live longer. This means that you can run and eat broccoli all you want, but if you don’t pair this with regular socializing, you might not live as long as someone who eats poorly and exercises never. Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? The Harvard Medical School states:

“One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.”

How to Improve Your Socialization:

  • Put the phone away. Meal times is the perfect time to communicate with family or friends.
  • Reach out to your friends. If you have trouble keeping in contact with others, check out these ideas on being a better friend.
  • Exercise with others. I don’t like to run with others or go to races or anything. I’m a lone wolf, when it comes to running. But on the other hand, I like to take walks with others (I think walking is better suited to socialization anyway). My mom is always walking with friends from her neighborhood and fellow Church members; it’s adorable.
  • Don’t assume technology is the answer. Technology has its myriad benefits, but it’s not a replacement for real human interactions. For instance, those interactions are rarely fully honest.
  • Plan family events. My mom is constantly putting together family reunions and family dinners. I have a large family—nine siblings, nearly 30 nieces and nephews—so you can imagine the noise and madness that these events can devolve into. But it’s worth it, even when I’m complaining about the noise and madness. As a result, I have strong family ties. Spend family time telling family stories; there’s evidence that this improves happiness.
  • Plan friend events. I have a friend who is always doing game nights, dessert nights, movie nights, girls’ nights. It’s awesome. I don’t have that sort of motivation, but I’m thankful for her that she does; I’ve made so many friends due to her efforts. It’s service and goodness, though she probably doesn’t think of it that way.

Humans weren’t meant to be islands. We are such that we are fundamentally unknowable, except by God; individually, we are all mysteries wrapped in riddles, even to those who know us the best. But we are meant to connect with others, to form chains of those connections throughout life and eternity. We are meant to be together; we are meant to be happy.

Choose Joy.

—A

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