Staying Social Could Be the Key to a Long and Happy Life

If you’ve ever played The Sims, you’ll remember that Sims have six Need Meters: Hunger, Bladder, Hygiene, Energy, Fun, and Social. You’ll probably also remember that while the first five were pretty easy to figure out and manage, that last Need, Social, was a lot more difficult.

In the age of social media, it’s becoming more apparent how much we all need and yearn to be in contact with others, even when they’re all the way on the other side of the globe. This is the reason why even games like bingo, which had long since been thought to be dead, have reemerged and established themselves as popular pastimes in this modern age.

Among other things, bingo is a game that allows for high social interaction. While other games like chess, Scrabble, and Monopoly focus on the competitive aspect, bingo doesn’t directly pit its players against each other. Instead, while they aren’t necessarily teammates, they are nonetheless going up against a common adversary: the whims of fate.

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This dimension to the gameplay shifts the focal point away from competition and into socialization. It’s this aspect to the game which researcher Bryan James believes to be the main factor in bingo being a healthy activity, especially for those entering their twilight years. Heading a research team in Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center that conducted a study among 1,000 adult volunteers, James found that folks engaging in highly social activities like bingo are less likely to develop disabilities – physically, mentally, and emotionally – as they grow older. He attributes this to the brain becoming rather adept at controlling how the body functions and ages the more that a person maintains a happy disposition.

No wonder, then, that bingo halls emphasize the social aspect of the game as much as they do the prize winnings. Even their digital counterparts are following suit. Free Bingo Hunter, a site that catalogues the plethora of online bingo websites that have emerged, has reported that many of these gaming portals have given away family vacations and free trips out of the country to their patrons.

Even with such events actively being staged, there’s still this stereotype of sorts that bingo is a game that’s only enjoyed by the geriatric crowd. Looking at it another way, though, it could very well be that said crowd has been enjoying the game since their early days, and the health benefits of the game have made it so that they are able to enjoy the game even as they advance in age.

Of course, bingo isn’t alone in this endeavor, as many companies have also begun integrating their games with social media. Brands such as Zynga have made a name for themselves creating games like the wildly successful Farmville, which gave value to social interaction and playing with friends. To this day, we all receive App Requests from people we know, who actually need our participation in order for them to advance in the games they’re playing.

Of course, there are many ways through which people satisfy their social needs, and it might not just be through interacting with others. Just as with The Sims, others can feel fulfilled by simply talking to plants and pets. And just as with The Sims, failure to satisfy the Social Need could have dire consequences. Sims usually begin to suffer from decreased Mood meters when they’re scoring low on their Social Needs, but loneliness has even worse consequences for us in the real world.

Psychology Today says that evidence is growing that “when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically”. We suffer from increased stress hormones, and we hardly even recognize it. Our attitude towards loneliness dictates that when we feel it, we brush it off. In extreme cases, the influx of stress hormones can result in eroded arteries, high blood pressure, and memory failure. In children, loneliness can result in dropping out of school and further delinquency when not addressed early.

Doctors have even said that they provide more complete medical care to patients who have healthy social lives. To make matters worse, when lonely people interact with others, their interactions aren’t nearly as positive as those of happy people, so once you fall into a ditch of loneliness, it can be quite difficult to pull yourself out, as your social interactions begin to lose meaning as well. Loneliness has even been shown to affect the quality of sleep you get, so not only does being lonely make you irritable, it also makes you lose sleep, which makes you grumpy, worsening the quality of your social interactions even more. This is why they say that loneliness is a “slowly unfolding pathophysiological processes”, which is sort of the equivalent of mental and emotional wear-and-tear,

With that being said though, it’s natural to be lonely. With our human need to interact and be interacted with, it’s only natural that we feel disappointed and lonely every now and then when things don’t go the way we wanted. Chronic loneliness, however, has been considered a sign of possible depression.

So how do you combat loneliness? Just as in The Sims, it’s actually quite simple: go out there and talk to somebody. But then, just as in The Sims, this might not always be an easy thing to accomplish. Your friends could all be busy, and you might live alone, without the slightest hint of whom to talk to. Luckily, you can now just sit down in front of your computer and begin speaking to your friends there, through social media, or through social games. Today’s technological advancements have made sure that we are constantly connected with the people who matter to us. We now have smartphones, tablets, and even smart watches that keep us on top of all the things our friends are up to.

Are there any special things you do to keep in touch with your family and friends? Let us know in the comments below.

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