There’s nothing wrong with being introverted—in fact, spending time alone and learning to embrace your solitude can be incredible beneficial. Doing so allows you to recharge, cater to your individual needs, and focus on your wellbeing. However, it’s also important to break out of your cocoon and spend time with others, as socializing and maintaining relationships is vital to living a healthy, happy life.

This may be a tough reality to face—it was for me, at least. About four years ago I went through a terrible breakup that left me feeling depressed and lonely. Fortunately, after a few weeks of sulking around, I decided to embrace the change and rediscover my independence. I saw my friends every now and then, but I mostly spent time alone. I found solace in grocery shopping alone, going to the gym by myself, and even fixing my car without anyone’s help—I was on a mission to reclaim my independence and prove to the world (or maybe myself) that I didn’t need anyone else.

I initially felt empowered by this new lifestyle, but I slowly dipped into another depressed and lonely state. Why am I digressing? I wondered. I quickly realized it wasn’t because I missed my ex or craved being in another relationship: it was because I missed my friends and my family. And I was in need of human connectedness. Upon making this important realization, I started prioritizing my relationships again; I rediscovered the importance of spending time with others… and I’m going to help you do the same.

Scientifically-Proved Benefits of Being Social

Although you may be tempted to camp out in your cozy apartment all day, meeting up with your friends or paying your family a visit can do incredible things for your physical and mental health. Being social can…

    …add years to your life. A study from BYU and University of Chapel Hill North Carolina found that individuals with fewer social connections had a 50% higher risk of dying within the 7-year follow-up period of the study. Furthermore, a study from Brigham-Young University showed that loneliness can have a greater effect on one’s lifespan than obesity.

    …boost your immune system. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that being more social improved participants’ resistance to illnesses like the flu and the cold; being isolated, on the other hand, did the opposite.

    …reduce depression. A study on incoming college freshman found that social support effectively reduced depression in those with healthy self-esteem, as well as those with a poor self-image.

    …lead to overall better health. A study of Europeans over the age of 50 found that those who were involved in social or community activities were more likely to report good or exceptional health.

4 Tips to be a More Social Person

Now that you understand just how beneficial socializing can be, it’s time to learn how to be a tad more social! Remember: it’s more than okay to take time for yourself and veg out alone from time-to-time. But there’s also a lot of value in spending time with friends and family, and the benefits are just too good to miss out on. Follow these 4 simple tips to be more social:

    1. Take it slow.
    If you have introverted tendencies and don’t spent a lot of time around other people, you should take things slow. Ease into becoming more social as opposed to jumping in headfirst. Consider inviting a few friends over for a small get together; make the effort to get to know one of your fellow coworkers better; give a stranger a compliment. These are great ways to expand your comfort zone, slowly but surely.

    2. Welcome conversation.
    When your coworker or roommate asks how you’re doing today, put some effort into your response. Instead of flippantly responding, “I’m doing well,” or “I’m alright,” offer a little bit more. Tell them about the yummy breakfast you just made, or the crazy thing that happened at work. And then ask them about their day too. The key is to welcome conversation instead of always doing the bare minimum.

    3. Be friendly.
    It can be difficult to startup a conversation with a stranger, and sometimes even with people you know and love. But if you maintain a friendly demeanor, people are likely to come to you—which means the hardest part is over. Offer smiles, use your manners, speak confidently, and be warm. People will love your company.

    4. Don’t worry so much.
    We often worry about how others perceive us: Do they like me? Does my hair look okay? Is my outfit appropriate? Am I talking too much, too little? But the truth is, they could really care less. And oftentimes, they don’t even notice that stain on your shirt or your mismatching socks. So stop concerning yourself with what others think of you—and focus on enjoying their company.

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