Work On Your Wellness: Socializing
Busy and stressful work schedules leave many IT professionals with little time to connect with friends and extended family. A lack of adequate physical activity due to long hours spent in front of a computer coupled with work-related stress doesn't do one's health any good.
Despite the hectic pace of day-to-day living, one can make time for some rest and recreation every week, with a little effort. It's important for our mental and physical health.
Socializing a few times a week or month can help take our minds off work for some time, provide stimulation, lower stress, and also bring in some physical activity. Studies show that spending time with a few family members, close friends, or even coworkers who are good, positive company can bring wellness benefits.
Engaging in different social activities can help one meet people, begin relationships, and derive much satisfaction and joy from doing things together. Research indicates that socializing with family, friends, or colleagues can help maintain and improve both physical and mental health.
A study that looked into the effect of different activities on the mental health of people of age 50 and above — from 13 European countries, over a two-year duration — found that too many social relationships and excessive socializing can have adverse effects on mental health. As with all things in life, it's best to exercise moderation in one's social life as well.
Benefits of Social Interaction
Improved cognitive function — It's believed that engaging with others is good for brain health. There are several studies that indicate a link between more social interaction and lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Participants in some surveys who were involved in social activities with others performed better on memory and other cognitive tests than those who didn't socialize.
Even a walk or jogging with a close friend, going shopping, meeting over a cup of coffee, and playing indoor games or a group sport can provide much-needed physical activity as well as cognitive engagement.
Better mental health — Having a healthy laugh with friends or a family member every now and again can have a positive effect on your mental health. Some studies have shown that laughter can help to lower stress levels as well as better sleep quality.
Socializing can yield positive results, however, only if you are with those who generate positivity, warmth, and affability. Most of us know one or more toxic people. If you have a toxic co-worker or acquaintance, then you likely know how stressful it is to be around such people. It's best to stay away from such people because their negativity can trigger anxiety and have an adverse effect on your self-esteem.
Stronger immune system — Research indicates that social interaction can be a contributing factor for developing stronger immunity. A balanced social life can help lower stress, thereby proving beneficial for those who suffer from chronic stress. Stress is bad for the immune system. So, less stress can lead to better immunity.
Also, walking, running, or playing a sport with a friend or two provides social connection as well as vigorous physical activity, which is good for the immune system.
Make Socializing Suit Your Schedule
If you have been somewhat socially isolated of late either due to a busy work schedule or a personal commitment or some other reason — such as a global pandemic that may or may not be receding — then you can change that by engaging in one or more of the activities discussed here. These are simple, accessible modes of socializing that don't necessarily take up too much of time.
Volunteering is a social activity that has the potential to benefit the volunteer, the recipients of voluntary service, and the community. Research demonstrates that volunteering a few times a week or month can help to improve self-confidence, reduce stress, give one a sense of satisfaction, and relieve depression, thereby enhancing mental health.
Neighbours, friends, and other contacts in your area might have information about volunteering opportunities in your community. When deciding on a voluntary activity, it's advisable to identify one that requires the skills or experience you have.
Joining a hobby group is a good way to meet people, make friends, and bring joy into your life. Whether it's pottery, reading, painting, or dance that interests you, it's beneficial to get together with people who enjoy doing what you do. If you're really pushed for time, even an hour or two every weekend can be relaxing and stimulating.
Participating in group sports once or twice a week can not only help you connect with others, it's also physically beneficial. It's important to choose a sport that suits your physical capability and that you enjoy. Though not a sport, Hatha yoga is a holistic activity that, if practised correctly, can have a positive effect on mind and body. Joining a yoga class also offers the opportunity of meeting people.
Though travel is still somewhat restricted because of the pandemic, it's worthwhile to take short trips as often as one can. It's like a tonic for the mind. You see new places, come into contact with different cultures, interact with new people, and perhaps establish friendships. Travel is also good for your body because sightseeing normally involves a fair amount of walking.
Education here doesn't refer to career-oriented learning, but to starting a new cognitive activity that has the potential to interest as well as challenge you mentally and/or physically. There are plenty of options, including learning a foreign language, a musical instrument, dancing, public speaking, martial arts, and Watsu, to name a few. You want to choose something that you're interested in and which you're capable of doing.
All these activities offer opportunities to interact with others and exercise the mind. Some like dance, martial arts, and Watsu involve physical movements as well. Talking about dance, a study conducted some years ago found that dance provided both cognitive stimulation as well as physical exercise.
People Who Don't Need Other People
Not everyone feels lonely; some are content to be by themselves. Spending quality time with one or two like-minded friends now and then, however, can be stimulating. Moderate human connection can be good for both introverts and extroverts, because it can make you feel supported. It generates a sense of belonging and helps alleviate excessive anxiety and weakens symptoms of depression.
If you are of a solitary disposition, then it might still make sense to get together with a close friend once in a while. Such meetings can offer a welcome diversion as well as an opportunity to discuss personal matters. Another social activity that loners might like is participating once or twice a month in a small group of like-minded people who all enjoy doing the same thing, perhaps a sport, therapy, or a hobby.