Socializing Promotes Brain HealthCeasar Augustus Paita
Social interaction is crucial to maintaining your brain health. As we age, the human brain begins to slow down. Our cognitive and social skills diminish, and we regularly find ourselves struggling with mental processes that were once second nature, such as being able to follow a conversation or learning new things. One way to help prevent these degenerative conditions and preserve your cognitive functions is to socialize. Humans are social beings; therefore, our brains rely on social interactions.
Social Interaction is Good for Your Brain
According to some studies, social engagement and participation in leisure activities can play a role in maintaining brain function and preventing cognitive decline. Socializing can stimulate attention and memory, which helps strengthen neural networks. This increase in mental activity boosts your cognitive functions. Moreover, people who have close relationships with others are less likely to suffer cognitive decline than those who spend most of their time alone. When you are socializing, you are training your brain. Taking part in social activities and building social networks are like brain workouts that keep your mind active.
To improve cognitive function, the aging brain must have plasticity — the brain’s ability to change or adapt in response to sustained experience. An important mechanism of neuroplasticity is neurogenesis. The pattern of connections formed between new and older neurons is a powerful way the brain can change in response to social interaction. A healthy brain requires this plasticity throughout life and becomes increasingly important as we age. You need it to develop your memory, understanding, communication, and emotional abilities.
Socializing also stimulates the brain’s reward system by releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure response. This is why people feel happy after a positive social interaction, such as talking to family and friends, since it causes their dopamine levels to rise. Dopamine is also essential for the formation of episodic memories like remembering your first day of school or what you ate for lunch.
Having Social Relationships Can Help You Survive Stress
Studies have shown that chronic stress can harm your brain when cortisol levels are too high. It damages brain cells and can cause memory loss over time. So it is important to find ways to reduce stress. A positive social interaction increases the level of oxytocin in the body, a hormone that helps reduce anxiety levels and makes you feel more confident in your ability to handle stress. Adequate social support also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces your neurophysiological experience of stress.
Socializing can improve cognitive function by reducing stress and anxiety, which can help you handle the pressures of life. Having a good support network can help you cope with stress because it provides a sense of belonging, security, and safety while reducing loneliness.
Isolation Can Negatively Affect Your Brain Health
Social isolation is more than just being alone. You can be surrounded by people and still feel isolated because of the feeling that you don’t fit in or belong with the people around you. This subjective experience of isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.
People who spend most of their time alone are more likely to experience cognitive decline than those with strong social connections. Researchers at Florida State University studied 12,030 Americans aged 50 and above over the course of a decade. Participants took cognitive tests at the start of the study, then every two years for up to 10 years after. They also recorded their self-reported levels of loneliness and social isolation. A total of 1,104 participants developed dementia after ten years.
Maintain Healthy Social Relationships
Recognizing the kind of interaction that helps improve your cognitive functions is essential. Socialization does not always lead to meaningful interactions. Some social connections are not always positive experiences and have the potential to be stressful or toxic. A handful of healthy relationships that encourage and support you is better than trying to expand your social group by including people who drain you or put you down.
Ways to Increase Socialization
As you age, it’s easy to get caught up in your daily routine, and staying socially engaged becomes more challenging. Fortunately, there are ways to increase social interactions. Here are some tips for staying socially active:
Stay in touch with family and friends.
Make time for the important people in your life. Whether you go out for coffee or meet up for dinner, make sure that you set aside some time to catch up with them. Some may live far away, and you might not see them often, but you can still keep up with their lives through phone calls, emails, or social media.
Reconnect with old friends.
Stay in touch with friends from high school or college with whom you had fulfilling relationships. A small gesture, like sending a message through social media, can go a long way toward keeping friendships alive over time.
Stay active in the community.
Volunteer your time at an event or organization that is important to you. This helps you feel more connected to the community and will give you something meaningful to talk about when meeting new people.
Join a group or club that interests you.
Join a local club dedicated to something you enjoy doing (like chess or knitting). It will allow you to meet new people who share your interests and hobbies. You can also join support groups and interact with people so you can help each other. If you have any questions or comments about this subject or any other related topics regarding brain health, don’t be afraid to share them in our memory support group. We want to hear what you have to say! Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/926202218076420/
Socializing with the right people is critical in preserving and enhancing your brain health. Social interaction has been proven to be a powerful means for increasing activity in the vital areas of the brain, helping to ward off degenerative conditions tied to cognitive decline. By engaging in healthy, positive social relationships, you give yourself the chance to strengthen your cognitive function and increase your brain’s natural plasticity.