Summer is here and that means more opportunities for social gatherings to celebrate the season and the weather. Depending on the kind of personality you have, these gatherings could either be exciting or they can be draining. If you’re like me, I have experienced both emotions and it entirely depends on the type of week I am having. Generally, depending how you usually present in these interactions, you would know if you are an introvert or extrovert or maybe a mix of the two.
An introvert is someone who is more quiet and reserved by nature. When they are in a social situation, they generally prefer a smaller setting to be more comfortable or they may find a social outing to be more exerting. An extrovert is someone who is generally expressive and who derive energy from being outgoing, talkative and engaged. While I find these definitions to be helpful for a general self awareness, I do not think we should hold onto the descriptions as a way of life.
Since living in a post-pandemic world, we have had to adapt and find ways to identify and meet our social needs. We were told throughout the pandemic that it was important to maintain connections even if it wasn’t face to face. We made those adjustments through zoom calls and then zoom fatigue developed and even with video calls, it only served as a supplement to what we were truly needing: face to face interactions in order to meet a human need. Outlined below are benefits that come with face to face interactions.
Cognitive benefits: Neurotransmitters are released in the brain that are responsible for managing stress and anxiety. Dopamine (our feel good hormone) is also produced which helps to manage pain/discomfort. Social contact can also help to improve memory formation and processes which can vastly improve the way we learn and retain information.
Physical health benefits: We have a higher likelihood to participate in activities that promote good wellness and activity if we are surrounded by those who are mindful about their eating habits and physical activity/recreation. Studies have shown that people who exercise in a group environment are more likely to reap emotional benefits because they are encouraging one another, have a mutual understanding of their shared challenges, and build a team based mentality.
Emotional health: From the time we are born, we begin to form associations through facial expressions, language and social cues. These associations are vital in order to interpret, recognize and express our emotions. In order to give and receive social-emotional benefits, we must have opportunities to practice expressing, listening and engaging. When we begin to become a participant in a social context, we experience the feeling of belonging which in turn gives us a sense of purpose and value.
Psychological health: Studies show that when interacting with other people, you are less likely to develop depression and anxiety. When you do not interact with others, you are more likely to be stuck with your thoughts on a loop and you begin to ruminate. Even in institutionalized facilities such as prisons or psychiatric treatment centers, they monitor and assess how long a person can be in isolation because there is a risk to develop psychological side effects that can leave long term impacts (feelings of worthlessness, suicidal ideations, and symptoms of psychosis).
I am not saying you should flood your calendar with commitments and outings. I understand the need to recharge in different ways and allowing yourself to reset without worrying about social expectations. Social interactions do not need to be associated with stress–in fact it can help to increase your quality of life and to encourage you to be mindful of a work/life balance. Being intentional with interacting with others (even if it’s just for a short while) can allow us to get out of our heads to gain perspective, practice being present, and can help uplift others as well.
Diana Nesko, MS, LCMFT provides individual, couple, and family therapy virtually to those located in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Diana!