The Balancing Act

The role of social interactions on physical and mental health

Written by: Ashley Deonarain, CFW Health Fitness Program Manager

Two young women walking while using mobile phone on urban city street. Cheerful woman doing online shopping with friend outdoor. African american girl showing smartphone screen to friend.

Life comes at you in waves. Sometimes you feel like you are on top, riding the waves with cool confidence. Other times, the waves slam into your body and it feels like you are being crushed. While life ebbs and flows it is important to find balance. In terms of our health, balance comes by attending to physical, mental, and social health. As an introvert, I find it difficult to socialize outside of my comfort zone. Having more face-to-face interactions combined with activities that get you out and moving is key to getting out of your comfort zone and achieving better balance.

Let's talk about Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As human beings we all need to feel a sense of belonging. While engaging in face-to-face contact, the body releases a bunch of neurotransmitters, such as oxytocin, which increases trust. It also lowers your cortisol (stress) levels. Psychologically, this is what motivates humans to interact with each other. Naturally we are eager to communicate. Some of us may need a little nudge to open up.

Start by talking about your experiences. These can be either positive or negative, it doesn't matter. Sometimes by you sharing your thoughts it can help you put things into perspective. Socializing is a great tool for happiness and longevity because it helps lower the rate of depression and anxiety. You become happier, you learn through others’ experiences and you live longer. That alone should motivate anyone to get out there and be social with others.

How do you socialize? Easy, you celebrate! Find different reasons to celebrate. It doesn't have to be your birthday or a holiday. Socializing can be done through both personal and professional activities. Find activities that will promote team building exercises like office trivia. Gather people in your department to participate in your workplace fitness center or health challenges. Create a sports team or rally a group of coworkers to try an “Escape Room”.

How does exercise play a role? When you combine face-to-face contact with physical activity, the health benefit is even stronger. Exercise also releases neurotransmitters, specifically endorphins, which boost mood and can also help buffer cortisol levels. Research has even found that people who exercise in social settings, such as sports, cycling and fitness classes, tend to be happier.

This month our content writers focused on social wellbeing in your fitness as well as nutrition. Check it out for some tips on building healthy relationships!