We are social animals. A lack of human contact will often go hand-in-hand with depression; one tends to exacerbate the other. Even if you enjoy your solitude, isolation can still be detrimental to your emotional health if you overdo it.
When somebody starts to withdraw from the people they love and the activities they enjoy, it can be a telltale sign of depression. Our friends and family often play an important part in preventing and treating depression, so it’s recommended that we try to socialise every day. A phone call or enjoying a coffee with a friend can significantly improve your mood, with face-to-face interactions tending to be the most beneficial, according to research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Regardless of how you go about connecting, finding ways to do it in an enjoyable way is always best.
Depression can make socialising exhausting and overwhelming but there are many simple coping strategies that can help. Relaxation techniques are cheap and easy to learn and with daily practice they will become second nature when you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed. Breathing exercises and meditation will relax muscle tension and dial down feelings of panic. Focusing on what’s happening around you can help to distract from what’s happening inside of you, allowing you to put your emotions aside. Reality-basing what you’re thinking, feeling and believing means distinguishing what’s real and what’s a product of depression. For instance, it’s common for people who experience depression to think that everyone else is happy except for themselves.
Socialising in large groups can be stressful, so it might be easier to focus on a conversation with just one or two people. Remember, you don’t need to spend the entire time talking, it’s okay to listen. If things seem overwhelming, just excuse yourself. Get some fresh air, or find a quiet place to think and be alone for a bit.
Research from the journal “Mind, Mood & Memory” confirmed that connecting with others improves our mood, fights depression, makes our lives more meaningful and offers us the opportunity to focus on something other than our own problems. The quality of your relationships will determines the benefits you experience.
Researchers from the University of Dublin confirmed a connection between socialisation and a reduction of depressive symptoms. Their nine month study looked at over 100 socially isolated adults who received regular face-to-face socialising as a part of their treatment. By the end of the study, all the participants reported feeling better, more confident, and had fewer depressive symptoms.
Grant J Everett, Panorama magazine
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