Are you making regular time to connect with friends, family or loved ones? It can be easy to forget this essential ingredient to a spectacular week - we get busy and put it off, or get caught up in work, kids, and general life admin. I hear ya!
I have had my hermit modes on and off over the years, but I'm learning more and more just how important that social interaction really is for my health and wellbeing.
Let's take a look at the benefits of good quality social time, what that looks like, and how we might get a little more of it into our lives.
Why Face to Face Social Time is Important
Humans are social creatures - even the introverts among us need some social time every now and then. We don't exist in a vacuum, though some days (between demanding bosses/clients and the hurricane that is children) we may wish we did!
Face to face social interaction releases a TGIF worthy cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters in our brain that regulate anxiety and stress - something we all struggle with in our daily lives.
A simple hand shake or a high five will release oxytocin into your system, which lowers cortisol levels, and social interaction releases dopamine, which is a great natural pain killer.
Maintaining close ties with others improves our happiness and wellbeing. Giving back to the community is another way to do this, but by doing something that gets you engaged with the community in person rather than from afar. Donating to causes is great, but you get a better return for your health when you see people benefit from your generosity.
Venting can also lower our stress levels and make us feel heard, seen, and understood. A good chat with a good friend can lift the weight of the world off your shoulders for a while, and leave you feeling ready to tackle all of life's challenges.
Social interaction can protect your brain from degenerative disorders, improve recall ability and memory.
What is Good Quality Social Time?
Not all social time is created equal. We might feel that a quick message exchange with a friend over screens is enough to give us our connected time for the week, but research does not back this up.
In person, face to face is always the best way to get your socialising in, to get the most bang for your buck.
Not all friendships were created equal either. Your best bet is to prioritise time with your close friends, your tribe, your people - you know the ones. They're the sort who leave you feeling better about life just by hanging out with them for a little while, grabbing a cuppa, or venting your spleen. This is far more important than those social encounters with acquaintances where you keep things superficial and don't connect on the same level.
How Much Time do I Need?
This differs between people. I know some extroverts actually top up by being around others constantly, for them it might be 3-4 times a week at least. On the other hand, we have the introverts who just feel exhausted after being around people. For them it may be once a week is enough.
You'll need to do a little feeling in on this to get the balance mostly right, and you'll find it shifts. Some weeks you may need less, others a bit more.
My advice is, if you haven't reached out or spent some good quality time with good quality friends or family in a few weeks, it's probably time to prioritise some.
But I'm Too Busy!!!
Nope, you're really not. Don't get me wrong, I understand hectic schedules. Those of you who know me well know I run a private clinic, a community clinic, kids karate classes, adults karate classes, am training for my 5th dan (at the time of writing anyway), am working my way through an awesomely intense coaching training, and writing a novel in my spare time (and doing classes to get better at this).
I still make time to go dancing, hit the gym, get my qigong in, get out of town every now and then, and get regular time with friends and family.
So, here are my top tips on getting that social time in when your schedule already feels packed.
1) Make the commitment to do a class a week or a fortnight with a good friend. This way you get in some exercise, or learn some new skills at the same time
2) Go for a walk together. Now you're doubling down on endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and all those good chemicals. You're getting exercise in, AND social time. As an added bonus, you can help motivate each other to go a little further or stick with it
3) Meet up for lunch on your breaks - this can be a great way to get out of the office and get a breather too, or even a short walk and some sun. And it beats wolfing your food down at your desk.
4) Schedule social time into your diary. If you leave it to chance you'll get busy and it may not happen as often as it needs to. If you schedule it in then you can't book other commitments in and you're more likely to stick with it
Give it a go - you'll be glad you did.