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How Being Social May Help Keep You Sharp

Written by S.O.

Posted on August 14, 2015 at 5:24 pm

If you are a shy person, who avoids contact with others, you may have reason for concern. Recent studies have shown that people who take the time to chat daily with friends and family, may just be doing exactly what is needed to fight off mental decline that comes with advanced age.

A few years back, a University of Michigan psychologist was listening to a radio broadcast that claimed people who traveled and read often were more likely to stave off the effects of mental decline as people age. Being an expert in social cognition, this did not make complete sense to him. He figuredthere was more to it than that – and it turns out he was right.

This particular psychologist, by the name of Oscar Ybarra, had grandparents who lived to a ripe old age, and remained lucid to the very end. One of the things he remembered about them was how social they were with a wide circle of family and friends. It was his belief this helped to keep their minds sharp as they aged.

He also has sound reasoning for this belief. When one is talking with another person, they are going through what Ybarra terms as “mental gymnastics.” When two people talk, both people are trying to figure out the motives of the other person, and what beliefs they are basing their statements on. That takes a good deal of cognitive work, and Ybarra and his colleagues recognized that. To reinforce their and share their beliefs, they published a report that detailed their findings.

Their findings did not pertain only to elderly people either. They found that people of all ages who avoid social interactions, are more likely to experience a decline in mental skills. The brains of humans are best put to use when doing what comes naturally for us – interacting with other humans.

Ybarra and the other researchers drew on their own work, and those of others to get responses from thousands of people, from a number of countries. Their ages varied from 24 to 100, and they were quizzed on social interaction, and also asked to solve problems related to cognitive ability. The results stood true across the board. Those who were more socially active, showed little decline of cognitive ability when compared to those who avoided social interaction.

Actually, this has not been much of a secret. In prisons, when the administration officials want to punish someone, who may be hard to punish since they are in some cases stuck there for life, they send them to solitary confinement. The lack of human interaction has caused many people over the years to become insane, or in the very least to become mentally unstable and imbalanced.

So, if you want to live into your golden years and still retain your cognitive powers, the solution issimple. Go out of your way to stay involved in your community, and stay connected with family and friends. This gives you the best chance to live a healthier and happier life.


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