6 Reasons Socializing Is Critical for Mental Health

6 Reasons Socializing Is Critical for Mental Health

Psychologists, counselors, doctors, and the Bible all promote positive relationships for mental and physical health.

Everyone at every age needs friends: “throughout life, close friends provide a strong foundation of compassion and trust for many people, and they can become even more important as we age.”

Here are six ways that socializing promotes mental health:

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  • 1. Encouraging a Healthy Lifestyle

    1. Encouraging a Healthy Lifestyle

    It’s easy to get into bad habits, both emotional and physical, without people to keep us accountable. Galatians 6:1 puts it this way: “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

    When others see us, we are more likely to take a close look at what we eat, what we say, how we act, and even how we think. Is our tone of voice kind or harsh? Are we sharing? Grumpy? Compassionate? Greedy? Rude? Lazy?

    Friends encourage one another to eat well for good mental and physical health. They challenge each other to be positive and to consider others’ needs.

    When we emulate the positivity and compassion of our peers, we simply feel better.

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  • 2. Preventing Depression and Anxiety

    2. Preventing Depression and Anxiety

    Too much “self” promotes depression and anxiety. “High and low self-esteem are two sides of the same coin [...] preoccupied with the self,” while they both “supplant God as the center of one’s life.” This quote comes from Tim Keller’s book The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness where he explains how self-involvement robs “Christians of meaningful purpose and life-giving joy.”

    Godly friends help us to keep Christ at the center of our lives and, by doing so, help us cling to joy.

    Notice how Colossians 3:16 encourages ‘one another’ living:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

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  • 3. Finding Purpose

    3. Finding Purpose

    After retirement, a person might wonder what he is supposed to do with his life. People don’t need him as much as they did when he managed a company, taught school, worked as a line cook, or fixed car engines.

    Friends remind a retiree that there is still purpose in life: to keep growing and learning. With fewer responsibilities, this is a great time to get to know God better; to really learn about Him. Finding purpose is often easier as part of a Bible study, prayer team, or care group than in isolation.

    From adolescence onwards, one might think that a successful life involves making money and achieving career status, but the real reason we are here is to know God, love Him, and to glorify Him. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

    One way He speaks to us is through relationships. These relationships also offer opportunities to find purpose as mentors and to continue being mentored, even in our 60s, 70s, and beyond. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:9)

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  • 4. Holding on to Memory

    4. Holding on to Memory

    “One study found that cognitive abilities declined 70 percent more slowly in individuals who had frequent social connections compared to those who had little social contact with others.”

    You can see that when a person is isolated, she tends to forget things more easily. She isn’t accountable to anyone. She doesn’t have to remember engagements or speak to anyone. With less purpose, memory slips away; at least short-term memory. Socialization may improve memory.

    Our memories are important to us, especially when we are hurting emotionally. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

    A good memory more easily calls to mind the teachings of Christ. When we need His encouragement and covet His guidance, a good memory will recall life-giving words or at least remember where to find them.

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  • 5. Discipleship: Helping Others Grow

    5. Discipleship: Helping Others Grow

    We always have something to offer as mature Christians, even if we are young in faith but rich in life experience. Socializing helps us stay mentally and spiritually fit, and we also have a responsibility to encourage mental and spiritual health in our peers through discipleship.

    We can impart our passion for Christ and support people in our own age group or young Christians. While it’s tempting to stick with our contemporaries, younger people need to be mentored. “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4)

    As one who came to Christ in my thirties, with a non-Christian background and no believing elders in my family, I am so grateful for the older women in my church who have taken the time to patiently teach, correct, and encourage me through the Word of God.

    New Christians at any age benefit from elders with wisdom to spare. Discipling younger believers is obedient and also has a positive effect on mental health: “Looking up to your elder spiritually is very affirming to him.”

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  • 6. Encouraging Empathy

    6. Encouraging Empathy

    The speck in another person’s eye is glaringly obvious when we never see ourselves through the eyes of others. We speak harshly about people who are different from us, forgetting how we appeared to God before Christ saved us.

    Now we stand before the throne of God, washed clean by the blood of the lamb, and we are called to reach out to others with that message of hope. We are not to judge but to act out our faith by clothing, feeding, teaching, and comforting others.

    God commands us to spread a message of hope which, by its very nature, involves socialization. Although this is an act of obedience, a life lived on mission tends to provide a person with greater empathy which “connects you to other people 

    in deep and meaningful ways.”

    Connectedness will save us from losing our memories, feeling depressed, and from feeling as though life is meaningless as we age. God is a relational God after all; He said from the beginning “it is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)

    The Lord was working from His own perfect, triune model—perfect relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit

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    Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.