The Benefits of Socializing: Be Healthier and Happier

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Happiness Advantage" by Shawn Achor. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are some amazing benefits of socializing? How can being a people person help your productivity and mood?

The amazing benefits of socializing are undisputed. From increased creativity to improved health and mood, making time to socialize is one of the best investments you can make.

Keep reading to find out the benefits of socializing.

Here Are the Benefits of Socializing

When you have a daunting, stressful project on your plate, you may be inclined to hunker down and isolate yourself from seemingly superfluous social interactions—eating lunch at your desk, working nights and weekends, and canceling social time with friends and family. However, this approach actually hurts your productivity, instead of helping it, because people need social connection for their productivity and personal well-being. In other words, when you avoid social interaction in order to focus on your project, you’re unwittingly creating a bigger obstacle between you and the finish line—and, by the time you get there, you’ll have no energy left for the next project. 

By contrast, successful people know that they need social support to get through challenging times. When you’re dealing with a big project at work or a challenging situation at home, the most important thing you can do is to maintain your social connections. The benefits of socializing include increased: 

  • Energy
  • Engagement
  • Happiness
  • Productivity
  • Resilience 
  • Sense of purpose

Furthermore, the benefits of socializing are twofold: 

  1. At the moment of interaction, you experience a jolt of happiness.
  2. Each interaction with someone strengthens that relationship, and as the relationship improves, your happiness baseline rises. 

In short, the benefits of socializing include an array of physical, mental, and emotional benefits discussed throughout this book. One study that followed 268 male Harvard students for nearly 80 years revealed that strong relationships were the biggest factor in long-term health and well-being. Furthermore, those with robust social ties also saw higher levels of career success and income than those without. 

The benefits of socializing also include improved health:

  • When you have a positive social interaction, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which lowers anxiety, improves focus and concentration, and makes you feel good. 
  • Social connections also boost your immune, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine systems. 
  • Social support can extend your lifespan—in fact, it plays as large a part in your life expectancy as high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and regular exercise.

Social Support Improves Your Work Performance

The benefits of social support are crucial at work, where chronic stress and pressure can have insidious effects. Relatively small social sparks—like working on a close-knit team and having casual conversations in the hallway—can insulate employees from many of the harmful effects of stress:

  • Since social interactions benefit the cardiovascular system, the effect works as an antidote to work stresses. This phenomenon is called work recovery. Over time, these benefits add up and minimize the ill effects of long-term stress. 
  • Research shows that people who have strong social connections are less inclined to interpret a situation as being stressful in the first place.
  • Employees who reap the benefits of socializingon perform better, even when they have to work longer hours and maintain focus under difficult conditions. 

Not only does social connection prevent employees from being impeded by stress, but it also expands their mental capacity and productivity. Social bonds:

  • Increase innovation and creativity 
  • Correlate with employees’ individual learning behavior, meaning that they invest more time in trying to improve their skills and efficiency 
  • Motivate workers (more than the promise of money and status)
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Prolong employees’ ability to focus 

Think of your social network like the offensive line in football: It simultaneously insulates you from threats of stress while also enabling you to flourish in the activities you set out to do. 

Companies can take actions big and small to foster environments that increase social connection. For example, Google keeps its cafeterias open past business hours to make it easier for employees to eat and socialize together. Additionally, UPS encourages its drivers to meet for lunch, because the benefits of the social interactions outweigh the time that these social gatherings delay drivers’ routes. 

Company leaders have a dual opportunity to improve their own workplace relationships while also creating environments that help employees do the same. While forcing connection through bonding activities and icebreakers actually inhibits trust and connection, managers and executives can use simple strategies to forge a culture in which social bonds can flourish organically. These tactics include: 

  • Encouraging employees to interact and socialize. Organize the office space in a way that promotes natural connection and community, and schedule meetings face-to-face, whenever possible. Additionally, introduce new hires to other employees, especially those in other departments who might be less likely to cross paths with their new colleague. 
  • Promoting strong relationships between bosses and employees, which increase workers’ productivity as well as their tenure at the company. Manage by walking around (MBWA), which is a leadership style that is predicated on interacting in person. MBWA enables managers to know their employees, find out about concerns, suggest solutions and best practices, and provide recognition and feedback—which, as we discussed earlier, can raise the ratio of positive-to-negative comments and increase productivity.
  • Initiating and encouraging non-work-related conversations among colleagues. Make eye contact and say hello when you pass coworkers in the hall, and make it a point to learn one new thing about a colleague each day. 

Exercise: The Benefits of Socializing

Reflect on how you can reap the benefits of socializing when you’re facing daunting tasks:

  • Describe one big, stressful project that you recently worked on.
  • How did you lean on your social support system, either for help with the project or to help you unwind?
  • How did you feel about the project on days when you had social time versus days when you didn’t?
  • Next time you’re working on a project and you’re on a deadline, name one way you can still incorporate some social time. 
The Benefits of Socializing: Be Healthier and Happier

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  • How happiness isn’t the result of success, it’s the cause of it
  • The benefits of happiness—from increased creativity to improved health
  • Strategies for adopting a positive mindset and raising your happiness baseline

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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