Why You Need A Balanced "Social Biome" For Optimal Health
As with an exercise regimen and a daily diet, maintaining a healthy social calendar is all about balance. Despite the need for meaningful social relationships, greater well-being also requires people to find contentment in being alone, according to a recent study published in Human Communication Research.
According to the Communicate Bond Belong (CBB) Theory, humans are striving to balance genuine long-term relationships with limited energy and time. Jeff Hall, Ph.D., developed this theory because he is "deeply interested in understanding when and how social interaction can help us have meaningful lives and better relationships."
To make sense of our everyday social patterns, Hall and co-author Andy Merolla, Ph.D., studied more than 10,000 moments from nearly 400 people and found the similarities and differences in people with healthy and unhealthy "social biomes" (or social life).
"Healthy biomes consisted of more frequent and longer interactions," according to a YouTube video explaining the study. "People with the healthiest biomes had more choice about how and when they interacted."
Part of controlling how you interact includes choosing whom you interact with. People with healthy social biomes spent more time (66% of interactions) communicating with close friends and family. This trend is likely linked to healthy social lives since conversations with close friends and family tend to come more easily and be more intentional than "functional interactions," like speaking in a meeting or making small talk.
According to the study, individuals who had a high frequency of social interactions tended to experience less loneliness and higher life satisfaction. But those less-meaningful conversations can also lead to exhaustion since they often require putting on a face in an attempt to belong.
This is why balancing social relationships with time alone is important for maintaining the health of your social biome. Meditating, going for a walk, or bingeing the new season of your favorite show are all helpful ways to prioritize alone time, a key to overall well-being (in moderation).
"This study only scratches the surface of knowing what patterns of social activity promote well-being," Hall said. "Once established...by other researchers, it would be great to know whether changing one's pattern of interaction can improve well-being."
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