If you think that people you hang out with do not impact your emotional and mental health in any way – you are wrong. Almost every aspect of our lives has an impact on our physical and mental health, and the same goes for our friends and family – the social circle. We are social animals, and we always tend to surround ourselves with as many people as possible, but not all of those people will have the same effect on us. If you have a caring social circle, you are more likely to have many psychological benefits. And if the circle is not as caring, then your health may deteriorate. So, let’s see how your friends and family can affect your social anxiety without you even noticing it.
How It Can Impact Your Mental Health
Social relationships are crucial to us people. They play a key role in maintaining good mental health, and consequently physical health. One of the main reasons why is that people we love and people that love us provide emotional support and care to us.
People who suffer from social anxiety and depression or other mental illnesses often find peace in friends and family and they can help with feeling better. If you have supportive friends and family members, you can significantly reduce feelings of isolation. What is more, they can help you boost your self-confidence and worth, and at the end of the day, help distract your mind from negative thoughts. Of course, friendships cannot cure mental illnesses, but strong and positive people and relationships can often help with the healing process.
On the other hand, limited social interaction and fewer connections may have harmful effects on your mental health. According to research, older adults and new moms – the two groups that are more likely to be isolated – have a much greater risk of depression and social anxiety. What is more, even if you have plenty of friends, if they do not match you, your personality, views, and other social aspects, they are also likely to impact your mental health in a negative way – especially if they are abusive.
That is why many experts in psychology recommend having a varied circle of friends who are different and who can lift you up. They can help lead you out of the darkness because energy can be quite infectious.
Benefits of Having a Strong Social Circle
Even though not all friendships are uplifting and supportive, there are many mental and physical health benefits of having a group of people around you that care. The benefits friends and family can bring include:
- Improved health and better immune system
- Better cognitive skills, such as better memory and lower risks of dementia.
- Your life expectancy may become longer
- Better habits, including exercising and eating, and sleeping well.
- Better self-confidence and a greater sense of self-worth
- Improved ability to cope and control emotions during difficult times
- Better wellbeing overall
Can Having Fewer or No Friends Bring Issues
It is a fact that not all people need constant social interactions. Even though they need fewer people around them, they still need a handful to help them out no matter what. According to a Harvard study, not having friends may be as deadly as smoking. This and other studies have found that social isolation is linked with levels of blood-clotting protein which can cause a stroke or heart attack.
When you have no one, or you are isolated on purpose, you have a higher chance of feeling lonely. Loneliness can trigger the “fight or flight” stress signal and that increases the level of protein fibrinogen which occurs in cases of injury and blood loss. And having too much of that protein is bad since it could raise your blood pressure.
Besides physical health issues, social isolation can cause many other mental health issues, like social anxiety. You may feel lonely and completely abandoned. Also, you can suffer from depression and social anxiety which constantly raise your stress hormone levels.
And with too much cortisol in your body can lead to even bigger health issues, including thyroid gland diseases, heart issues, high cholesterol, and even unexpected complications and pains such as dyspareunia (intense pain during sexual intercourse). This may even complicate things even more since we use sex for pleasure and to relieve stress. Luckily, there is a simple dyspareunia treatment to alleviate pains. What is more, all of those other issues caused by higher levels of stress are treatable, but the best medication is working on yourself and lowering the stress hormone buildup in your body. And there is no better way to do that than by surrounding yourself with friends and family.
How to Maintain a Solid Social Circle
When we are kids it is much easier and more natural to make new friends. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to maintain relationships and forge social connections. Life demands and obligations often stand in our way of making and maintaining friends, but there are ways to work on this and make your life a bit easier with positive people.
Make an effort – yes, friendships require work and time, but if you neglect them, they will fizzle out. It is up to you, and your friends, to make an effort to reach out frequently and see each other. Even if you have the busiest week a quick call or text will keep your relationships strong.
Find time for new people – friendships change over time and it is important to challenge yourself to meet new people. To do that, you can try volunteering, joining a certain club for your hobbies, new classes, exploring new cities with your travel buddy going out, etc. Just be open to new people.
Evaluate your friendships – people change and relationships shift and it is okay to reevaluate some friendships. The ones that make you happy and good should certainly stay and be nourished, while the ones that make you miserable or bring you down, should be cut out.
We as humans are social animals and we thrive when we are surrounded by the people who care about us. Also, when you care about people you feel better instantly, and spending time with such people is the best time ever. So, it is a fact that your social circle has a positive impact on your mental health, but if you do feel like you need boundaries, don’t be afraid to set them.
Bio: Eliana Davison is a Writer/Marketing Specialist with a high interest in wellness and healthy lifestyle. A writer with a sole purpose to inspire people with her work.