Should I go out or stay in bed to Netflix n chill? This time of year can be a bit tricky when it comes to socializing. Sure, on one hand you were invited to a ton of holiday parties. But on the other, it’s so stinkin’ cold out and it’s too tempting to spend the rest of the night inside binge watching your show of choice. Don’t get us wrong- we’ve answered “yes” to the “are you still watching” prompt as much as the next guy. But if you’re spending most of your time solo, your health might be taking the hit more than you think.
Friendships and Your Health
A study published last winter found people who fostered active social lives reduced their risk of death by 50%. And a stat like that grabbed our attention. It stands to reason that healthy relationships reduce your likelihood of suffering from stress or depression by providing you with comedic relief or a comforting ear. But you may be pleasantly surprised to hear that people with more healthy relationships also had healthier blood pressure, BMI and belly fat measurements. This is because when you stress out, the hormone cortisol is released to tell the rest of your body that you are in fact stressin’. And evolution-wise, your body responds by storing more food as fat and increasing blood pressure to get your muscles ready to run away or fight from a prehistoric predator. Too much cortisol can even distract your body from properly defending against colds and the flu, leaving you with a higher chance of getting sick.
How You Might Be Making Matters Worse
If you’re constantly missing happy hour by working overtime or are 0 for 5 in the late night ice cream run with friends to save the calories, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. Making a habit of choosing high-stress options over time spent socializing will only worsen the problems caused by cortisol. When skipping these events, you miss out on the opportunity to release some stress and instead pile on a little more. We are not telling you to blow off work to become a happy hour hero or to get a cone whenever the idea is simply mentioned. But we do have some solutions.
The smallest changes in your routine can have lasting impacts on your health. Joining the office happy hour once a month can help you feel more connected to your colleagues and make your work environment a less stressful one. Treating yourself to ice cream with friends after a trying week gives you a forum to not only vent about negative and frustrating scenarios from the past few days, but also to laugh about them and perhaps find their silver lining. We all consider time spent socializing with friends a luxury or R&R. In reality it should be more of a priority- think of it as important as a full night’s sleep or a balanced diet. Cold and flu season is upon us. If you want to stay healthy, don’t do it alone.