Remaining socially active could be just what your brain needs.
Research has shown that social interaction influences health in several ways. When social dynamics are of an appropriate type and level, the favorable benefits possible include the following:
- Engagement in behaviors that lead to good health
- Boost to mental and emotional health
- Reduction in stress levels
- Improvements to internal health
- Outlook on life and happiness
- …and, you guessed it, brain health!
Multiple studies have demonstrated that positive, meaningful social relationships may have protective effects on human health.
A few attributes indicative of a favorable social relationship are those that encourage personal growth, provide emotional support, entail mutual respect and trust, and focus on positive attributes of one another.
So how exactly can social interaction influence the health of our brain???
Studies have demonstrated a relationship between social interaction and memory, cognition, and rates of neurodegeneration. The evidence observed thus far has led to further emphasis on these areas within research.
On the flip side, social isolation may be a contributing factor in the onset and development of degenerative conditions affecting brain health.
As Dr. Eugene Rubin points out in a Psychology Today article on social interaction and brain cells, “there are specific nerve cells in the brain that are directly influenced by social experiences” which plays a role in the neuroplasticity of the brain.
Neuroplasticity is essentially the brain’s ability to change and adapt over the course of a lifetime. It can apply to the better or the worse and is a critical component to brain functionality.
Also, other factors that social interaction influences, such as stress levels and emotional health, impact various internal mechanisms within the human body which could be affecting the brain. Excessive mental and emotional stress is thought to lead to inflammation, another key facet to consider in brain health.
The evidence to suggest that positive relationships, maintained over your lifetime, support overall health and well-being is compelling.
The various dynamics between social experiences and the brain are a hot topic within neuroscience which could lead to new approaches and treatments to a variety of health-related areas including overall wellness of the brain.
One of my favorite ideas to nurture the body, brain, and social relationships is walking book clubs. This approach provides social engagement, mental stimulation, and physical activity for a 3-in-1 healthful activity. It can also be impactful to integrate mental stimulating activity into any social experience.
Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality. Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results. Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health. Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!
In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes? Contact me through my business site.
Cleveland Clinic (2020). Healthy Brains, 6 Pillars of Brain Health: Social Interaction. Retrieved from https://healthybrains.org/pillar-social/.
Cohen, S. (2004, Nov). Social Relationships and Health. American Psychologist, 59(8), 676-684.
Cohut, M. (2018, Jun 1). Research Confirms that Social Interaction Protects Memory. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321976.php#1.
Davidson, R.J. and McEwen, B.S. (2012, Apr 15). Social Influences on Neuroplasticity: Stress and Interventions to Promote Well-being. Nature Neuroscience, 15(5), 689-695.
Donovan, N.J., et al (2016, Dec). Association of Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden with Loneliness in Cognitively Normal Adults. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(12), 1230-1237.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School (2010, Dec). The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T.B., and Layton, J.B. (2010, Jul 27). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine 7(7), e1000316.
Rohrer, J.M., Richter, D., Brummer, M., Wagner, G.G., and Schmukle, S.C. (2018, Aug 1). Successfully Striving for Happiness: Socially Engaged Pursuits Predict Increases in Life Satisfaction. Psychological Science, 29(8), 1291-1298.
Rubin, E. (2012, Jun 7). Social Interactions and Brain Cell Connections. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201206/social-interactions-and-brain-cell-connections.
Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010, Mar 1). Social Relationships and Health: A Flashpoint for Health Policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51 51(1) Suppl, S54–S66.
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Yang, Y.C., et al (2016, Jan 19). Social Relationships and Physiological Determinants of Longevity Across the Human Life Span. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of American), 113(3), 578-583.