Social isolation and loneliness tend not to receive enough attention. About a third of adults worldwide have experienced loneliness. That’s especially troublesome when we consider all the complications that result from it.
Humans are social by nature. Isolating from others is fine now and then. It helps us to focus and learn about ourselves. For many, being alone it’s crucial for introspection. It lets you figure out your interests and be more productive.
However, it must be voluntary, temporary, and not harm your relationships. You must feel good spending time alone. It mustn’t be the result of depression or social anxiety.
That’s not the same as loneliness. Loneliness occurs despite desiring social connection. You’re not alone because you want to. It’s a symptom of underlying psychological and social complications.
Today, you’ll learn how social interaction benefits us. I’ll also share several tips to help you get along with others.
Why is social contact important for our emotional health?
Many experts consider social interaction as a primary human need. It’s crucial for positive mental health. The linked article also suggests that social interaction can prolong our lifespan.
We must consider the quality and quantity of our relationships when assessing them. The benefits occur both in the short and long term. There’s a reason why social isolation is a common torture method, after all.
The health implications are also considerable. People with low social involvement are almost twice as likely to die. There’s not a unique cause behind that, either. We can name a few:
- Socially isolated people are less likely to find help during health complications.
- Loneliness often results in (or from) depression. It increases the risk of suicide.
- Poor social interaction can lead to social anxiety. It makes it more challenging to interact with others. That can include seeking professional health care when needed.
Improper social ties can also cause specific health complications. Some examples include cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. Cancer also becomes more likely. Likewise, cancer recovery suffers from delays as well.
This term refers to all behaviors that influence our health. Common health behaviors include nutrition, exercising, and overcoming vices. Damaging behaviors also fall into the same category. That means substance abuse, poor diets, and smoking.
Social interaction belongs to this category. It does more than affecting our mental health. Our social ties influence other health habits as well. That can be as simple as friends caring for our health. It’s also easier to feel motivated with healthy social habits.
As we worry about others’ health, we do the same with ours. Social ties also provide implicit guidelines for our health. Others tend to expose us to healthy and unhealthy habits alike.
While speaking of social ties, let’s dive into the psychological implications. Social support refers to the emotionally positive relationship aspects. We speak with our friends when we’re sad to feel better. We complain to them about work to shed stress.
Social support does more than alleviating stress as well. It can instill a feeling of purpose in our lives. That may come from helping others, mutual projects, and more.
Socialization also has physiological benefits. It can lower our blood pressure and stress hormones. It can subdue unpleasant arousal, like anxiety. Therefore, it lowers the risk of falling for substance abuse and similar behaviors.
The symbolic meaning is also a crucial benefit from relationships. Marriage and similar compromises make us feel responsible. Children have a similar benefit.
Healthy relationships push us toward healthier habits and behaviors.
Science-backed social life hacks
Social isolation seems to have a straightforward solution at first. You merely need to meet more people. Go to a bar or a club to meet others. If that’s not your thing, social media and apps are waiting.
Unfortunately, that’s considerably harder once you start trying it. Social anxiety is quite common. Many people feel uncomfortable even with regular small talk. Furthermore, today’s hectic lifestyle leaves little time for friends.
Don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can do to make it easier. Psychology Today has a large list of tips to boost your social life.
We’ll focus on what you can do to make more friends. The original article has plenty of insight for pursuing romance. We’ll leave that to your decision.
First and last impressions
First impressions are crucial. Everyone says that, but they don’t delve into why. We memorize the start and end of things. That’s why the last impression is crucial as well.
If you’re meeting someone, focus on these two factors. Open the conversation with a great topic. Close it memorably as well, even if you must leave early.
Don’t incentivize too much
People tend to dislike feeling pushed toward anything. People don’t like to contradict their beliefs with what they do. That’s why our beliefs change with our personalities.
Compensating people for doing something might not always be ideal. Lacking compensation leads them to conclude that they willingly did it. Therefore, they must’ve enjoyed it.
Don’t pressure questions
Our mannerisms dictate our conversations to a huge extent. We might talk about an uncomfortable subject. The right attitude makes everything easier.
Social pressure is a considerable hurdle for countless people. Questioning others is a great example. We want answers, but we can’t push people to answer directly. Eye contact while staying silent suggests this pressure indirectly.
Gum is a lifesaver
Gum is a common temporal treatment for anxiety. It’s also subtle, so people won’t notice why you’re doing it. You can use this to shed stress while speaking with someone.
Chewing gum tells your brain that you’re comfortable. Therefore, think about taking a few to your next date. You can get rid of it after you’re comfortable with the other person.
Watch their feet
This one might be weird but stay with me. If you’re standing while talking, look at their feet’ orientation. Don’t stare, but check them a little now and then.
People point their feet away from people they dislike. If you notice their feet point toward you, it’s an amazing sign.
Emotions are contagious
Going out with others can be stressful if you’re not used to it. Try hyping yourself before going out. Have a drink or listen to music you enjoy.
Once you start speaking, people will notice your excitement. They’ll feel the same way because they think it’s because of them. It also helps them associate positive emotions with you.
Kill them with kindness
People will get angry at you. We’re different and hold different beliefs. Conflict is typical in all relationships. It’s also healthy for everyone.
You only need to know how to handle them. Remain calm even if others are yelling. They’ll quickly feel guilty. That leads them to calm down and make the conversation easier.
Avoid cold hands
Cold hands can be a silent killer for first intentions. Handshakes are surprisingly important. Consider warming up your hands before shaking someone else’s.
Dry and warm hands inspire confidence. Cold hands are similar to wet hands. They feel uncomfortable and could indicate nervousness.
Adrenaline might be good on dates
Adrenaline exhilarates and makes us feel energized. That’s why people like roller coasters and extreme sports. If you’re one of them, don’t be afraid of proposing it.
Many people will enjoy themselves if they feel an adrenaline rush. You’ll also feel better if your friend or date are energized that way.
Use people’s names
We love talking about ourselves. It might not be obvious, but it helps us understand ourselves. That’s why we typically like hearing our name while talking.
This one’s simple. You just have to call people by their name instead of “buddy” or a nickname.
Nodding is powerful
While talking to others, nodding is a powerful tool. People like feeling that others are interested in what they say. Nodding conveys this sensation.
It’s another trick you can use the next time you speak with someone. However, be subtle. Don’t make it too noticeable. A slight nod will do the job.
Fake it without being hypocritical
We can trick our brains into feeling happier. We’ve already covered how forcing your smile can cheer you up. This trick can help you while talking with others.
If you’re feeling down, try bringing up a topic you like. Try to smile, even if you didn’t feel amused by something. You might be surprised by how quickly you warm up.
Try to meet people individually
Finally, try to meet people instead of groups. Hanging out with several strangers can be overwhelming. It’ll make you feel more nervous.
Additionally, one-on-one interaction makes it easier to be memorable. You can make a better impression if no one else is speaking as well.
What if I just stay alone?
Now, all that might feel like too much work. I can understand if you feel like you don’t want to do it. However, we must point out that such a mindset is one of the reasons behind loneliness levels. It’s likely not to help if you merely stay home.
As we mentioned, you can benefit from alone time. You must set aside enough time to be with yourself. It just needs to be willing.
Social interaction benefits your health. On the other hand, isolating typically results in health complications. If you wish to be alone, make yourself a few questions:
- Are you just tired of people momentarily?
- Will, it cut current ties and harm friendships?
- Can you resume your social life as soon as you want?
Social isolation is becoming a prominent problem
As cited studies suggest, social isolation has grown. The current health crisis and social distancing measures have contributed as well. Social isolation has become the standard for multiple people.
The linked article suggests that household sizes have been steadily shrinking. Marriage and parenthood keep becoming more uncommon. Religion and other social activities have suffered in popularity too.
Many factors create a loneliness sensation. Poor family ties are common in lonely individuals. Partners, low social anxiety, and social support protect us against that feeling.
It’s a mortality factor
As mentioned, loneliness typically translates into higher mortality rates. Epidemiological studies have also focused on lifespan implications. Premature mortality is prominently less likely when socially connected.
On the other hand, earlier death is a risk for lonely people. Loneliness, social isolation, and living alone are risk factors. The latter is the highest risk factor according to studies.
That’s because of the aforementioned factors. Social support can be essential for finding health care in several scenarios. Cardiovascular conditions are more likely to occur in socially isolated people. The same goes for suicide rates and other depression-related risks.
It breeds mental disorders
I’ve already extensively covered the physical issues from isolation. However, mental and cognitive conditions also originate from social isolation. Overall health takes a hit with loneliness. We feel less pressed to care for our physical well-being.
Even a common cold is more likely with poor social ties. That’s likely because depression affects our immune system considerably. Cognitive complications, like dementia, are also more likely in isolated people.
We also need to focus on behavioral practices resulting from depression. Substance abuse breeds the risk of overdosing. Addictions are plentiful within depressed communities. Suicide is also increasingly common, especially with the pandemic.
The holistic takeaway
No one should overlook social isolation. We can feel like we merely want to be alone sometimes. The key lies in understanding whether it’s out of desire or there’s something else behind it.
As mentioned, we need to be alone now and then. Some people need it more than others, but it’s still true. Remember the guidelines I’ve provided for healthy isolation. They’ll help you realize whether it’s fine to go through with it.
But you must understand that social interaction is often difficult. You’ll feel like you don’t want to speak with anyone. Fighting that desire—that comfort zone—is the biggest hurdle.
You must set the goal and work for it. It’s the same as working out and eating better.