Social Activity and Support

Did you know?

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Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has found that the strongest predictor of a species’ brain size—specifically, the size of its neocortex, the outermost layer—is the size of its social group.

 

Wired to Connect

We all know that connecting to other humans can have a powerful impact on our emotional wellbeing and even our physiological development and health. Babies gain weight faster, crawl and walk sooner, and sleep more soundly when they have the attention of an affectionate caregiver. When we have loving, engaging relationships in our lives we tend to feel better, and this helps us to manage pain better, makes us less susceptible to illness, and allows us to recover faster when we do get sick.

 

But believe it or not, socialization actually has an impact on brain performance as well, especially as we age. Studies with lab animals, such as chimps, show that those who are socially active and go out to explore their environment live a significantly longer, healthier mental and physical life than those that “hibernate” or stay at home. Another recent study has shown that individuals in their 60s and 70s who engaged in regular social activity had healthier brain scans than those who didn't. Even 10 minutes of social interaction can help support cognitive performance. And there are other benefits to our minds . . . socializing gives us new ideas and perspectives, broadens our options, and makes us feel less isolated.

 

You don’t need hundreds of friends on Facebook to be connected. One or two good friends can make all the difference. Whether it's sharing a meal, a hobby or a volunteer activity, socializing is a wonderful mirror of how our brain works—forming energetic networks of communication and exchange.

 

Why it Matters

A study demonstrates that prolonged social isolation can lead to a decrease in myelin, an effect implicated in cognitive changes. The study also showed that when social integration occurred, myelin production went back to normal. 

 

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Combine brain exercises with socializing, and you have a winning combination. Multiple minds working together can be a lot of fun. Solve a puzzle, play a board game, or join a language class.