The Importance of Positive Social Interaction to Your Overall Health

two happy young ladies lay in the grass socializing and laughing

There are varying beliefs about how many areas of self care you need to address in your efforts to be healthy and happy in life. But in some way, shape, or form, most all of the experts agree about the importance of positive social interaction to overall health and wellbeing.

Numerous studies indicate there is a direct correlation between positive social interactions and both mental and physical health.

I believe we’ve all seen this to be true during the pandemic when our social interactions were reduced and we found the need to emphasize other aspects of self care.

It was an opportunity to learn a great lesson about the importance of social programs, social networks, social services, friendships, family connections, and typical social interactions in all settings of our world.

three happy young ladies enjoy social interactions together in a sunflower field

Positive Social Interaction Definition

Let’s begin by asking, “What is the definition of positive social interaction?”

After much research and exploration, I think this definition encompasses what we, as adults, are referring to:

Positive social interactions are interactions that promote the wellbeing of everyone involved, and lead to the ongoing development of social skills that encourage the parties to communicate respectfully and feel accepted by each other.”

Positive social interactions include common courtesies such as:

  • encouraging each other to talk about self
  • generously offering compliments and support
  • practicing good manners and social norms
  • asking open-ended questions and being willing to listen
  • paying attention to your body language
  • replacing negative thoughts about social self care
  • monitoring intonation and voice

Why Positive Social Interactions are Important for Self-Care

Interestingly, studies often show even highly-social people who have poor habits, like smoking and inactivity, frequently outlive less social people who practice a healthier lifestyle.

These studies make it impossible to ignore the importance of a strong social network as a required prerequisite to a long and healthy life.

Thus, it would suggest that positive social interaction is an essential element of self care.

This is known as social self care.

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three young ladies enjoy positive social interactions as they blow bubbles together

What Does Social Self Care Look Like?

Social self care can be as simple as calling your mother regularly or planning lunch with a friend. But these behaviors need to be planned and executed without excuses, delays, and rescheduling.

Humans need to socially interact. They need one to one interactions and group interaction skills.

Your social self care practices need to be important. They need to be a regular part of your lifestyle. Otherwise, it is very easy to neglect this aspect of your health.

Did you know humans are innately social and need connectedness to thrive and flourish? They need to interact socially on a regular basis.

Even the most introverted people need to understand the importance of positive social interactions to overall health and wellbeing. It’s essential for negating loneliness, managing stress, and just having fun in life.

People need social connections to help them through difficult times and enjoy the happy times together. This is part of human nature.

Call a close friend, invite someone from work to go for a walk during lunch, join an online social networking group, find a hobby and take a class.

Social networking and interactions do not need to be major projects and parties. But social self care does need to be a priority.

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Health Benefits of a Socially Active Life

If you think about this logically, it really makes sense.

When you socialize with other people, you have interaction that provides stimulation for your brain.

Even someone who disagrees with you stimulates your mind. They give you feedback that keeps your mind active and open to others’ perspectives. Thus, opening your mental and social health to a greater capacity.

A socially active life provides you with people to talk to when you need to talk. But equally important, the reciprocity of others needing to talk to you provides you with a sense of fulfillment and mental focus.

When you socialize with others, you have opportunities to think outside your box. Get out of your own head. Think about others instead of yourself. And develop new mental associations that expand your knowledge-base.

This is all a very natural and necessary part of social self care. It’s wonderful for everyone involved!

This knowledge should encourage you to be as social as possible, even if you are more of an introverted personality and prefer to have a smaller group of human connections.

two ladies sit on driftwood on the beach looking out onto the ocean with their arms around each other

Consequences of Limited Social Interactions

Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend how two very different things can be so closely connected.

We generally think of positive social interaction as being something quite different from physical health, right?

Wrong.

Research supports the findings that there are many negative physical consequences of spending a life of isolation and loneliness.

Who wouldv’e thunk it, right?

These consequences can significantly compromise your health.

Check out this list of physical side effects that can occur due to ignoring your social self care:

  • weakened immune system
  • heart function/disease
  • premature aging
  • sleep problems
  • overindulging in unhealthy foods
  • overindulging in alcohol
  • weakened physical state

Again, it makes sense if you think about it. If you are not stimulating your mind with social interaction that promotes overall health and wellbeing, your body is not going to get the care it needs to thrive either.

Communities at Risk

High-risk communities are our senior citizens, chronically ill people, and people who lose a spouse through divorce or death.

There are also groups of people with situational circumstances who may temporarily fall into an isolated lifestyle briefly due to unemployment, a move to a new area, or a health crisis.

But older people represent one of the most vulnerable groups at risk for isolation due to natural changes in their life and health.

The more people recognize this reality, the better the chances for avoiding the isolation that can lead to unhappiness, loneliness, and worsening overall health.

Thus, the more people who are aware of the importance of positive social interactions, the more we can all pay attention to anyone who may be suffering or unable to practice healthy social social care.

And we can, and should, step in to provide support and social interaction with those at risk.

two happy older ladies sit together at a table socializing

Importance of Positive Social Interactions on Mental Health

Social isolation is a key trigger for mental illness.

Depression is a significant problem that troubles people who are isolated, lonely, or without social interaction opportunities. Additionally, people who do not have appropriate social interactions experience mental health problems associated with higher stress levels and a lack of meaning in their lives.

It is common for mental health to deteriorate even more if the isolation continues, undermining self-esteem and a sense of purpose.

Appropriate social interactions lead to improved mental health. It can make you feel happier and lighten your mood.

Research also shows positive social interaction lowers your risk of dementia as you get older.

Overall, socializing is good for brain health and promotes a sense of safety, belonging, and security.  

Keys to Positive Social Interaction Skills for Adults

Before we close, let’s look at some things we can all do to focus on social self care. This is just a short list I’ve compiled from my research. Hopefully, we can do better for ourselves and others:

💜 Set boundaries for your own social self care. Find a reasonable balance that you are comfortable with and make it a priority in your life.

💜 Practice reaching out to others. For some it’s easier than others, but practice makes perfect.

💜 Find people that you genuinely have fun with and make it a priority to spend time with them. Solid, meaningful peer relationships support overall health.

💜 Focus on quality time with your social connections and positive peer relationships.

💜 Address your emotional self care needs within your social network. Hiding your emotions and sidelining the difficult conversation isn’t good for anyone.

💜 Identify positive social interaction activities that bring you joy and clear your mind of stress and struggles.

💜 Volunteer in your community and widen your social network through common interests. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone you meet, but your mind will stay healthy and active through the interactions.

💜 Consciously remember that social health is equally as important as physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. So stay focused on your own social interactions and encourage social interaction for those around you who may need your support.

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two happy young ladies head to head take a selfie

Final Thoughts

Your social connections foster the natural feelings of love, empathy, and acceptance, which are essential for sustaining your overall health and well-being. We are social creatures that thrive on interactions and activities with people.

Positive social interaction skills can be developed with practice even if you are not naturally comfortable being a social person. It is essential to focus on the importance of positive social interaction even when it may seem easier to isolate.

Stay social. Engage with others. Avoid loneliness. Because it can start a downward spiral of health issues as discussed here.

You may also want to consider reading about Positive Selfishness and Wellness with Southern Sass. These articles will provide you with more information about self care practices that support your overall health and wellbeing.

Love to All! ~Susan

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