The Value of Making Social Connections and the Hidden Health Benefits of Sharing a Good Laugh
When you’re trying to stay healthy, then proper nutrition, plenty of exercise and lots of rest are essential, but so are your social connections. Connecting with others helps to improve your psychological and physical health.
Good social relationships can increase your chances of living longer and strengthens your immune system. When you do fall ill, having others around you can help to hasten your recovery. People who have strong social connections are less likely to have anxiety and depression. Also, they are more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem, are more trusting and cooperative and more empathetic towards others.
Unfortunately, even though the benefits of being socially connected are clear, many people have fewer close confidantes than ever before. In 1985 a study showed that Americans felt they had three close friends they could share personal problems with, a figure that dropped to just one in 2004. A quarter of Americans feel they have no-one to confide in. Studies show that the numbers of people who feel increasingly lonely or socially isolated is rising. There’s nothing wrong with nurturing yourself and being independent but take the time to nurture your friendships too, because social connections are a fundamental human need.
Hidden Health Benefits of Sharing a Good Laugh
Have you noticed how you immediately feel better after sharing a laugh with friends or family? It is because laughing promotes healthy emotional and physical changes in the body.
- When you laugh, it relaxes your whole body, relieving physical stress and tension.
- Your immune system is boosted because laughter decreases stress hormones and boosts immune cells and antibodies that fight infection.
- Laughing prompts the production of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormone that can promote an overall feeling of well-being.
- Laughter is great for your heart, improving blood flow and the function of blood vessels, which has a protective effect.
- Sharing laughter with others can help to put problems in perspective, diffusing any feelings of anger or conflict more easily.
- You may even live longer if you laugh more, as one study discovered that people with a good sense of humour outlived those who didn’t laugh quite so much. The effect was especially pronounced in people fighting cancer.
As children, we often laugh hundreds of times a day, but as we get older, we become far more serious and less able to laugh frequently. Rediscovering the ability to laugh often can be a powerful antidote to anger, pain, stress or conflict, and it’s completely free!