You’ve probably heard it before. Eating nutrient-dense foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress levels low are all ways to extend your life. But there’s another tremendously important key to ensuring a longer, happier, healthier life. That key is social skills.
Numerous studies show that having a supportive friend group or community is directly correlated with lower all-cause mortality risk.
Around the world, we are waking up to the idea that a healthy lifestyle must include social interaction. It’s the best way to feel revitalized, recharged, and that you matter. It’s also the best way to combat loneliness.
If you can be around longer on this beautiful planet, with loved ones and people you care about, wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to ensure that?
With the loneliness epidemic on the rise and people spending more time with their smartphones than with other human beings, it’s high time we made some healthy lifestyle changes.
But it’s not just our fast-paced lifestyles and screen time that pose a threat. It also is age.
Stay with me because we’re diving into some new research on why social skills decline with age and what you can do to prevent it.
Alright back to the lesson.
On this channel, we teach social skills and communication strategies to equip you with a toolbox for effective social interaction. But today, we’re going to zoom out a little bit to talk about social interaction more broadly. Specifically, we’re going to work on becoming more aware of your social habits and what to do to stave off a decline as you age.
In a new study called CogSoCoAGE, where researchers tracked the cognitive basis of social communication across the participants’ life-span, researchers discovered that social skills begin to weaken as we approach our late thirties and early forties.
Professor Heather Ferguson, a researcher in cognitive psychology at the University of Kent in the UK, noted, “Once social abilities decline, people can start to feel lonely and depressed, which can then have a big impact on physical health.”
That stands testament to the importance of supercharging our social skills as best we can.
Take a moment to think about the state of your current social calendar. Are you regularly engaging in a meaningful way with people you trust and care about, and who care about you?
Keep in mind that there is a big difference between interacting with people purely as a function of work or through social media versus engaging with them as friends where you can confide in them topics of great importance or complete frivolity.
For most of us, we could probably stand to increase the amount of that kind of interaction. And what this study really drives home is that as we get older, these types of interactions become increasingly infrequent.
So knowing that, let’s take a look at three important ways you can buck the trend and keep your social interactions active.
Expand Your Network
Don’t get me wrong, deepening your existing friendships is very important. But it’s important to also cast a wide net. This way, when life happens and you grow more distant with existing friends, you have a pool of acquaintances you can become closer friends with and fill that void. To facilitate this, always be on the lookout for new friends. Engage people you meet with thoughtful questions that help identify common interests and likeminded thinking. Do this everywhere you go, even when you are traveling abroad!
Once you’ve made new friends, make an effort to keep in touch with them. Send them notes and emails, or even old-fashioned postage! I have a close friend who loves exchanging letters, and each time I get a letter from her it feels so special. Now of course, as we all know on this channel, the best type of social interaction is face to face interaction, so whenever the opportunity arises to meet your friends in person, seize it.
Hone Your Skills
The study doesn’t just show that our social networks shrink over time. It also points to why. And one of the major reasons is that we start to lose our edge when it comes to our social skills. We get rusty at things like reading body language and practicing empathetic listening. For this reason, it’s super important that you stay on top of your social skills game. The same way you practice a musical instrument or a sport, you need to keep your social skills sharp. This channel can be a great resource for that. Practice the strategies we discuss here with everyone you meet. Consciously work on making eye contact, listening with feeling, and studying the patterns of your conversations. Treat what you learn in our lessons as quests to complete. Challenge yourself daily.
The great part about social interaction is that, unlike exercise, which can sometimes be painful, talking to people you care about feels great. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. If you’re feeling rusty, that’s all the more reason to get out there and sharpen that blade.
Go out and be social, make friends, and enjoy the rich diversity of life. Have deep conversations. Drop the pretense and keep it real. Once you have friends, treasure them. Keep in touch and seize every chance you get to meet face-to-face.
And continually challenge yourself with the content on this channel as you do all of the above!
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I would love to hear about how you keep your social skills sharp. What’s been working? What challenges do you encounter? Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments below.
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Email this video to a friend or coworker who also wants to supercharge their social skills.
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And remember, the writeup of these lessons are always available on our blog at explearning.co/blog.
With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡