The bestselling book of all time states that it is not good for man to be alone. Poets, philosophers and social scientists throughout the ages have also observed the impact of relationships on well-being. Friends and family provide a sense of community and a safe harbor during difficult times. Numerous studies confirm that social interaction reduces the incidence of anxiety and depression. A growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that staying socially connected and engaged has other brain health benefits as well.
White matter is analogous to computer cables, which enables your computer to interface with other devices on your network. This portion of the brain facilitates communication within the brain and with the rest of the body. A November 2012 study published in Nature Neuroscience reveals that social isolation prevents the body from producing white matter in the region of the brain that is responsible for normal cognition and emotions. Diminished white matter can cause depression and interfere with learning. The landmark study also found that social integration restores the normal production of white matter.
A 2008 University of Michigan (UM) study evaluated the effects of social interaction on adults 24 to 96 years old. The researchers discovered that there was a positive correlation between interaction and memory regardless of age.
Another UM study compared the effects of social interaction, intellectual exercises and isolation on college students. Participants were randomly assigned by researchers to one of three groups. The first group discussed a social issue, and the second group solved crossword puzzles and performed reading comprehension exercises. The third group watched a segment from Seinfeld but did not interact with other members in their group. The social and intellectual groups experienced equivalent increases in cognitive performance. The authors conclude that social interactions can keep the mind and brain healthy just as well as intellectual challenges, such as new hobbies and reading.
College will be one of the most pivotal periods in your life. For many people, the college years are the first time away from home, family and childhood friends. Most of your classmates are experiencing the same emotions. It is important not to isolate yourself because withdrawing can lead to depression and adversely affect your academic performance.
Things may never be the same as they were when you were in high school. The good news is that this new chapter in your life can be better than the previous one. It may take a little extra effort, but you can maintain and expand your social network. Technology and social media makes it easier to stay in touch with people regardless of the distance. It only takes a minute to send a text or tweet someone back home. While you are in college, take the opportunity to meet new people. Sporting events, social clubs and study groups are great ways to meet people with similar interests and cultivate rewarding lifelong relationships.