Aside from the emotional benefits, being socially active stimulates the cognitive skills and protects against their decline.
People who stay closely in touch with friends, even if they have to be a bit more creative during the pandemic, preserve a better memory. This is important for every age group, but has a particular impact on the elderly.
Why does this happen?
- Maintaining emotional ties can prevent and ameliorate stress and depression, all of which have been linked to an increase in memory problems and dementia risk.
- When engaging in social interaction, one has to remember how to interact with each other, with whom they have interacted in the past and how that interaction went about, thus making use of autobiographical memories, but also some implicit memory features.
- Socialization and memorization share some neural underpinnings, as they both stimulate brain areas such as the fusiform face area (associated with face recognition), the amygdala (involved in processing of memory for emotional events) and the hippocampus (implicated in the encoding, consolidation and retrieval of memories).
- In a social situation people evoke, non-consciously, previously learned social norms, which help them modulate their behaviour according to their audience.
- When interacting with old friends, for example, we tend recall meaningful life episodes, old funny situations and shared knowledge, all of which will boost the episodic and semantic memory.
Furthermore, having meaningful social connections and staying in touch with dear ones has a deep impact on your mental and physical health. In fact, just being around other people promotes self-care and stimulates the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle.
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