Mental Benefits Of Socializing And Dating

Kindly tallied and conveniently displayed on your Facebook Profile page, the latest numbers indicate that you have over 300 friends. Their smiling faces stare back at you from tiny boxes that greet you each time you log on. How do you feel knowing you have so many friends? With social networking and instant messaging, most of the socializing people do happens via the computer screen. Although convenient, cyber socializing has ramifications that extend beyond your naked calendar and, to be precise, into your brain. For the sake of your mental health, you need more physical face time with friends and love interests.

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Social Brains

The brain is a complex command center engineered with highly sophisticated synaptic cogs, axons, and firing neurons. As competent as the brain is, it isn’t immune to the stimulus introduced to it. Certain drugs can actually change brain chemistry, while activities like a daily Sudoku puzzle can improve brain functioning and memory. What then would happen to your brain if you were to forgo Facebook and introduce it to another person, face to face? Quite a lot, actually.

Friends with (Mental Health) Benefits

Consider a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan. When participants spoke to individuals they had not met before in a conversational manner, their ability to solve problems and perform cognitive tasks improved. This is just another reason to go on more first dates. It turns out social savvy and smarts go hand in hand. By swapping thoughts, ideas, or basic stats with people you come in contact with, your brain’s executive functioning—that all-important part that controls planning and thinking—gets a boost. However, when competitive conversations occurred between participants in the same study, there was no improvement in cognitive performance. Translation, don’t date jerks who just want to argue. You may not become Mensa material by socializing, but a good chin-wag can get those cogs going.

Talk to a Friend

The human ability to express thoughts, ideas, emotions, and wishes with others is so basic it’s easy to miss how essential it is for good mental health, and not just cognition. A study conducted among medical students showed that those who were assigned to study in pairs had markedly lower levels of stress than those assigned to work alone. A number of clinical studies performed over the last several years also proved that people with a network of friends they could actually speak to were more resilient. They coped better with illness, impairments, and life stresses than individuals without a support network.

I’ll Have My Brain Call Your Brain

Considering how beneficial regular conversation is for mental health, you may want to think twice about two hours of Twitter browsing. If you need some ideas for socializing, try one of the following:

  • Host a work party
  • Have a neighborhood potluck
  • Start a book club meeting
  • Attend a dance class
  • Go on more dates
  • Go to an exhibit opening

These are all great ways to socialize, give your brain some beneficial stimuli, and stave off loneliness. You could even invite your 300 friends. While it might feel good to turn on the computer and see what’s going on in the virtual social world, you’ll get many benefits from scheduling activities with friends or planning events to meet new people and date.

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