Living in an age where we can message or FaceTime our friends from the comfort of our own home (and without having to wrangle any resistant toddlers into the car) definitely has its advantages. But it also means it’s very tempting to go out less and stay home more. I mean, when you look at the cold, hard facts, why would any of us go through the torture of getting our kids dressed and out the door if we don’t have to?!
But did you know some psychologists and scientists have actually proven that face-to-face contact helps us feel happier, be more resilient and even live longer?
In a TED talk by Susan Pinker called, “The secret to living longer may be your social life,” she shares how face-to-face contact releases neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine that increase our feeling of well-being. Pinker is a psychologist and also the author of The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier.
Assuming Pinker (and grandmothers around the world) are right and that in-person interaction is just plain good for us, how can we squeeze in some much needed social time into our already packed days? Here are a few ideas:
Block-off a repeating time on your calendar to get together with friends for a Saturday morning coffee, a quick lunch during the week, or dinner with another family one night a month. Often, finding an open time on two or more calendars is half the battle, so protecting this time on everyone’s schedules will greatly increase the likelihood you’ll get to meet up.
Use the time spent waiting for kids at after-school activities to connect with the other parents who are also waiting. Pinker shares in her TED talk that even trivial conversations with casual acquaintances are good for your soul. So get out of your car and off your phone! It may seem awkward at first to talk with strangers, but they’ll soon become your friends if you make a little effort. Remember that face-to-face interaction benefits everyone. You may actually begin looking forward to soccer practice!
Join a community group such as MOPS “Mothers of Preschoolers”, a book club, a service group at church, or a sports club that’s already set up and just waiting for you. It’ll give you a built-in way to connect with people about things you have in common (like parenting) or things you love doing (like talking about books, serving others or running). Don’t just join a group because you feel obligated, or it’s the first group you come across. The more this group fulfills a variety of your emotional, intellectual and physical needs, the more likely you’ll commit to attending and the more you’ll get out of it.
Now, get off your phone and find someone to connect with face to face and heart to heart. It’s likely more fun than exercise and may be even better for you!
About the Author
Elizabeth Billups is the content manager at MOPS International, a non-profit organization that builds groups of moms around the world who love each other like family (mops.org). Elizabeth is also the author and illustrator of The Puddle Jumper’s Guide to Kicking Cancer and other books. With three kids of her own, she’s got a heart for supporting moms and families.
At MOPS we believe that remarkable things happen when moms come together, face to face and heart to heart. That’s why we rally women to come together in their own neighborhoods, one gathering at a time. Our acronym stands for “Mothers of Preschoolers” because we began in 1973 when a group of moms of young children banded together to share their lives and parenting journeys. Over the past 45 years, we’ve expanded our reach to include moms with older kids, partnering with churches and organizations worldwide to equip and encourage moms in more than 60 countries. Learn more at mops.org.