Have you exercised today? It's well known that regular exercise is a key component to living a well-rounded, healthier life. All it takes is 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day to reap the benefits.
But when was the last time you gave your social life some attention? In today's world, it's never been easier to maintain your connections. With technology keeping us connected 24/7, we're no longer meeting in person like we did even 10 years ago. So, despite our friends and family being now easier to reach, most of us are still experiencing loneliness.
Social Media Can Worsen Feelings of Loneliness
Researchers have found a link between the amount of time people use websites like Facebook or Twitter and their feelings of loneliness. Meaning, the more often they use these websites, the more isolated they feel.
Melissa Hunt, a researcher in the field, noted that while the conclusions may seem counterintuitive, they make sense, given people's tendency to compare themselves with others.
"Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there's an enormous amount of social comparison that happens," Hunt explained. "When you look at other people's lives, particularly on Instagram, it's easy to conclude that everyone else's life is cooler or better than yours."
Hunt suggests that while staying off social media entirely is unnecessary, limiting screen time is an effective way to find balance.
Doctors and health experts agree: Social interaction is important to well-being – even more important than the activities you might typically associate with living longer, such as regular doctor visits, flu shots, eating healthy and hitting the gym at least three times a week. The people who live the longest tend to be those who surround themselves with others.
This latter term – social integration – refers to the small things that people do in their day-to-day dealings with others that involve interaction, such as waving to neighbors, holding the door open for those leaving or exit a building, or engaging in casual conversations at the gym. In other words, people who regularly participate in face-to-face dealings can increase their longevity, noted Tim Smith, who co-authored the study.
"In essence, the study is saying the more positive psychology we have in our world, the better we're able to function not just emotionally but physically," Smith explained.
So, how can you ramp up the health and well-being of your social life? Here are a few pointers that can help you get the ball rolling:
1. Monitor Your Social Media Use
There's no question that websites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook serve as great outlets for communication. Virtually everyone would agree, but it's not quite the same as speaking to someone in person. Try your best to monitor your time on social media. Try logging on so many times per day or only scrolling for a certain period. Whether it's for a half hour or 45 minutes after dinner or during lunch, set a schedule and stick to it.
2. Keep an Eye Out for Socializing Opportunities
Today, people feel there aren't as many opportunities for socializing. This couldn't be further from the truth. Whether it's group exercise classes, mass meditation festivals or make-your-own pottery workshops, there are lots of ways you can mix and mingle; you just have to get creative!
3. Make Interaction a Priority
It can be difficult to branch out of your comfort zones, especially if you tend to be more introverted in your ways. Try to break from that tendency by making a point of getting to know others. It doesn't have to be much – a simple smile or kind word can go a long way toward getting your social life in order.
Much like a muscle, your social life will grow stronger and better conditioned the more you exercise it. So, get out there and feel the burn!