The power of others
Human beings are social animals. Ever heard that before? Well, there is some truth in it.
Have you ever noticed that when you feel low you want to be alone, away from everyone. It is important to recognise that this is a perverse symptom of depression and that the cure is in doing the opposite of what you feel like doing. In this case, it means being around people.
The benefits of social interactions for your brain
Research has shown that interacting with others can reverse this negative cycle. By others I mean friends and family but also strangers and even pets.
Social interactions change the activity in the brain, mainly by boosting Oxytocin and Dopamine levels. So talking, physical contact or even just being near other people can do the following things for you:
Reduce pain and discomfort
Research has shown that people experiencing pain on their own experienced greater levels of pain than those having a friend or even a stranger supporting them.
Improve your mood
Being sociable helps you get better and getting better helps you be more sociable. Even talking to strangers can help.
Ease stress and anxiety
Stressful situations are almost always easier to deal with when supportive people are present.
Social support counteracts social rejection
Even if it feels like the whole world is against you, having just one person on your side can make a big difference.
Decrease depressive symptoms; and
Increase calmness and happiness
Let’s get you started
Be around people
Don’t stay home alone. Go somewhere, anywhere, where there are people, like a coffee shop or a library. You don’t have to interact with others if you don’t feel like it. Just being in the same physical space as others can help.
Do an activity with a friend
This allows you to engage with others without having to talk too much. This is a good place to start when you don’t feel ready for full-on social interactions.
Help yourself by helping others
Volunteering is a great way to increase positive emotions. Doing something for others will make you feel good about yourself and you will be around genuinely nice people who want to help others.
Hugs and handshakes
Touching others is one of the primary ways to release oxytocin so go for it but please keep it appropriate!
Spend more time with your friends
Make an effort to see your friends more often, organise meet-ups. This will also impact the decision-making circuit that we discussed in How To Make decisions. If your friends and close family members are far away, call them.
Get a dog
Having a dog can help to improve your general wellbeing in several ways:
– You will exercise more because you will be walking your dog several times a day
– You will look after the dog which will force you to do something that is not focusing on yourself
– You might interact more with strangers because of the dog – think about it, if you see someone walking a dog, do you smile and say hi more easily than with other strangers?
– You will increase your oxytocin every time you have a cuddle with your dog!
Have you ever noticed the powers of others on your mood? I’d love to hear your experience so leave a comment below.
Intellectual Property lawyer by day, blogger and life coach by night. Having suffered from depression on and off over 20 years, Emilie has done extensive research on the subject and worked out a system to manage depression without medication through having a healthy lifestyle. She shares her experience and tips on her blog https://memyhealthandi.org/