A year after the 2020 lockdowns, the impatience for things to return to normal is felt globally. Fortunately, Singapore avoided the bulk of the eruptions, so life quickly returned to near pre-pandemic levels.
However, despite the rapid opening of the city, there is one important aspect of society that has still not returned to normal: social interactions.
Work has gone beyond socializing, with 61% of Singaporeans noting that they socialize less with people outside their immediate family than they did before the cutout measures.
However, with work-life balances already hanging by a thread, is socialization less really what our socially evolving species needs?
We’re exploring some of the top scientifically proven reasons why increasing social interactions will be the best thing you can do for yourself in the long run.
Socialization reduces stress and anxiety
One of the main benefits of socializing with others is that it helps you build dopamine and oxytocin, while lowering your levels of cortisol (the stress hormones).
Studies also show that having a reliable network of family, friends, neighbors (and now even colleagues) also lowers the risk of developing mental illness, reduces subsequent depression in people with heart disease. and helps foster resilience.
In the workplace, socializing with coworkers can help reduce work-related stress.
In a study that examined employee perceptions of what reduces stress, participants who improved relationships and support with their colleagues found they were happier, improved their team dynamics, and became more united.
While that doesn’t mean you have to endlessly distract your coworkers or bond with office gossip, it does mean you need to take the time to get to know your coworkers, foster a family environment (if you’re a manager) and confide in your close co-workers to reduce stress and negative emotions at work.
In-person social interaction has positive cognitive benefits
Beyond reducing stress and anxiety, which greatly improve cognitive functions per se, socialization also helps your brain process information, ideas, and memories better.
Many studies have shown that engaging and talking to other people helps train your brain and improve cognitive function. In fact, the reverse – social isolation – increases the risk of dementia and cognitive decline, especially in older people.
Also, there is a clear distinction between socializing in person and seeing other people through virtual means, such as through social media or the webcam, especially when it comes to education.
A study exploring the impact of socialization on education divided infants who had to learn to distinguish two sounds in Mandarin into three different groups.
One group of infants asked a native Mandarin Chinese speaker to engage and read to them, the other group only saw movies from the same Chinese speaker, and a third listened to only audio.
The results showed that the group that interacted with the speaker in person significantly learned to distinguish between the two sounds, while infants with virtual education showed no learning during this period.
Although we are not infants, this study may suggest that learning is best achieved through face-to-face interaction.
Thus, it is possible to extrapolate these results and use them to your advantage in your career.
If you want to learn a new skill that can help you advance in your career, consider attending an in-person seminar instead of taking an online course.
At work, ask your boss or coworker how to complete a new task, rather than trying to find the answer in a YouTube video.
Not only will you interact with others in a meaningful way, but you will be able to learn better through theory of mind and enhanced mental stimulation.
Socialization can open up career opportunities
Social interaction doesn’t just mean talking to friends and family over dinner or on the phone. Socializing more also means joining a new club, volunteering, learning a new skill with friends, or signing up for classes at your local gym.
If you’re not sure where to start, Meetup and Eventbrite are two great ways to give it a try. Meetup allows you to search for a hobby or interest and then join the group where you can meet people to participate in that activity.
Meetup groups cover all kinds of hobbies like tennis, hiking, going out to eat, or just going out. Eventbrite hosts events and courses that you can register for. Many of these events are free, so you don’t have to spend a dime to meet new people and do something you love.
The benefit of learning a new skill or doing a new activity with a group of people comes with increased networking opportunities.
With networking being an important part of finding a new job, it’s hard to ignore interacting with other people if you’re looking to gain new clients, attract new talent, or attract investors.
While you can send a message on Linkedin and hope to get a response, you hardly ever build the meaningful relationships necessary for successful networking. So in this case, interacting in person while doing something you enjoy can be very effective.
For example, if you take a tennis lesson, you will meet other like-minded people who love tennis. When you bond around a sport and work together (or against each other in competition), you can naturally build trust.
It then becomes much easier to present your idea or assess mutual career interests.
When you increase the number of social interactions, you can start small
If you’re nervous about socializing after Covid, are shy, or don’t have time to increase social interactions, it helps to start small. For example, visit family members on the weekends for a quick walk or lunch rather than talking to them on the phone.
If you’re hesitant to join new groups, you can ask a friend if they’re ready to join you for the first lesson or the Meetup event. If you are working in a debilitating manner, you may suggest eating lunch with a coworker rather than eating alone at your desk.
While socialization may seem like an optional aspect of our lives, it’s actually one of the most important things humans can do to ensure a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
However, while this is important, be sure to pay attention to how you choose your social interactions.
Avoid spending time with people who make you feel bad about yourself or spending hours browsing social media.
Try to weave things into your social interactions that are really interesting to you, and set aside time in your busy workday to detox with friends and family. Your body and your boss will thank you for it.
This article first appeared in Champion of value.