Social Interactions and Mental Health

According to recent studies, mental functions drastically improve after certain types of social interactions. Psychologist Oscar Ybarra – a researcher at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR), who headed such a research – says, “This study shows that simply talking to other people, the way you do when you’re making friends, can provide mental benefits.”

This is a fact that even reputed treatment centers anywhere in the country would corroborate. So, “friends with benefits” is a real thing! Apart from all the benefits we enjoy in a friendship, the mental health angle can definitely be called the fringe benefit.

Let us take it with a pinch of salt to what late Lebanese-American writer Khalil Gibran said: “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” Jokes apart, our social quotient has a direct bearing on our mental health to a great extent and it is always good to have a great social circle.

How does our social interaction help us in improving our mental well-being? An active social life offers oodles of other benefits apart from being in comfort among friends. Let us see some of the benefits of being a socially active person.

Cognitive enhancement: Any social interaction, however brief it may be, brings in the goodness of mental stability. Studies have revealed that even brevity of our social interaction has not failed in enhancing working memory, self-monitoring and problem solving abilities in us. People who frequently engage in social activities have a greater ability in solving issues in their lives. They are less perturbed by problems in their lives, whereas socially aloof people become timid and nervous when faced by similar situations.

Executive function: Ybarra also said “we believe that performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspectives on things” and “we also find that when we structure even competitive interactions to have an element of taking the other person’s perspective, or trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result.” People with frequent social interactions become more adept in handling responsible jobs and manage others.

Physical benefit: Socially active people are more sporting and do not shy away from physical activity. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that young adults who exercise and socialize regularly reported better mental health than peers who didn’t. According to the researchers, few of the mental benefits associated with exercising may be due to the social aspect of it. So, this also affirms a co-relation between social interactions and a sound mental health.

Mental health centers in the country, be it the mental health centers definitely support this view and forming groups among the inmates is one of the reasons why they do it.