We, humans, are highly social beings. We don’t survive well, let alone thrive, in isolation. Relationships with other people stimulate our brains—in fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise of all.
Research shows that having meaningful relationships and a strong support system are vital to emotional, physical, and brain health. In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline.
A 2008 study led by Oscar Ybarra at the University of Michigan, studied 3,600 people aged 24 – 96. They found that the more socially engaged peo¬ple were, the higher their cognitive performance. Unfortunately, it is often later in life, when social activity is the most likely to benefit the brain and memory, that people tend to become more isolated. Retirement, the death of a loved one, or any number of factors make this tendency understandable, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it
There are many ways to start taking advantage of the brain and memory-boosting benefits of socialising. You can volunteer, join a club, see friends more often, find a new interest and participate with others, join a walking group, learn a musical instrument, learn to dance, organise a movie night, or reach out over the phone – the possibilities are endless. And if a human isn’t handy, don’t overlook the value of a pet—especially the highly social dog.
Your community, body, brain and memory will thank you for it!
By Dr Allison Lamont
Founder and memory consultant at the Christchurch Memory Clinic.
Stemming from my research into memory and aging, my sister Gillian Eadie and I have founded the Brain and Memory Foundation website. Click here to visit the website.