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You Can Stop Forcing Yourself to Socialize

A new study finds extra socializing provides diminishing returns for well-being.

Key points

  • With the pandemic lifting, we may feel more pressure to socialize.
  • Studies find that socializing contributes to our well-being.
  • However, socializing at high amounts provides diminishing returns for well-being.

With pandemic restrictions lifting, many of us have rushed back to socializing. This was everything I missed when we were locked down, we might tell ourselves, or I should hang out as much as I can because you never know when things might close down again. And yet, as we pressure ourselves to socialize, we might also feel exhausted.

Social connection is essential for our health and well-being. Loneliness, in contrast, poisons our bodies with some effects similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, studies find. But that doesn’t mean we need to be socializing all the time. We can find a balance of socializing and alone time that works best for us. And balance might be the best option, according to a recently published study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study examined the link between rates of socializing and well-being across 129,228 people in 29 European countries. When isolated people began to socialize more, they experienced a boon in their well-being, the researchers found. However, there were diminishing benefits when people who had socialized at moderate levels began to socialize at higher amounts. In other words, socializing all the time wasn’t much better for their well-being than socializing just sometimes. These results applied whether someone was extroverted or introverted. On the other hand, socializing at high amounts did not detract from well-being at all, so for those who prefer surrounding ourselves with people all day, go for it. But for the rest of us, even as the pandemic has led us to recognize just how precious time with others is, we need not drink straight from the social hose. Let go of the guilt, and the pressure, to socialize. Slow down and pay attention to the rate of interaction that feels best for you. It’s OK to turn down that happy hour invitation for some me time.

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