Social interaction is vital for our well-being, and this is even more important for seafarers, who often spend long periods of time away from their families and friends, which can lead to feelings of isolation.

Laughter, talking with others, and engaging in social activities can all have a positive and profound effect on our mental, emotional, and even physical health.

The global health consultants at COLUMBIA pure look at the science behind these social behaviours and how the various psychological, neurological, and hormonal processes play a huge part in our moods.

Stress reduction

Social connections have been shown to reduce stress levels. When people laugh or engage in conversations, the body releases hormones like oxytocin, which helps in lowering cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, and also promotes a sense of connection and trust.

Engaging in enjoyable, social activities can also serve as a distraction from stressors and provide a mental break, contributing to a positive mindset.

Isolation or loneliness can contribute to stress, and social interactions help combat feelings of isolation by fostering a sense of belonging and connection. Whether it’s sharing perspectives, such as talking to others about challenges, receiving advice, feedback, or simply hearing different viewpoints, these can all help individuals reframe their thoughts and approach stressors more effectively.

Release of neurotransmitters

When people engage in positive social interactions, the brain releases neurotransmitters, creating a reinforcing loop that encourages social bonding and cooperation.

These chemical messengers such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, transmit signals between neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and are associated with pleasure and reward, contributing to a sense of happiness and well-being.

Improved cardiovascular health

Engaging in social activities has been associated with better cardiovascular health; laughter, in particular, has been shown to improve blood flow and increase vascular function. While the exact mechanisms behind these effects are not fully understood, research suggests that laughter may enhance the function of the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels), which plays a crucial role in regulating vascular tone and blood flow. Positive effects on endothelial function could contribute to improved blood vessel dilation and reduced arterial stiffness. Laughter has also been associated with increased production and release of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Physical contact

Most of us love to be hugged and there is a scientific reason why. An embrace, or even a casual touch, can trigger the release of hormones that promote relaxation and reduce stress. The simple act of being in the presence of others can create a sense of safety and security.

Enhanced immune system

Positive social interactions have also been linked to a strengthened immune system. The release of neuropeptides during social bonding helps in regulating immune function. Chronic inflammation is associated with various health conditions, and positive social connections may help modulate the inflammatory response in the body.

Neurological impact

Social interactions stimulate various regions of the brain, so conversations, laughter, and shared experiences activate areas associated with reward, empathy, and social bonding. This can enhance cognitive function and emotional regulation.

Emotional resilience

Social connections provide a support system that contributes to emotional resilience. Having a network of people to share experiences with can help individuals cope with challenges and adversity.

Maintaining healthy social connections is just one aspect of overall well-being, in addition to other lifestyle factors such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep. Knowing the science behind the positive aspects of social connections just might make talking, laughing, and sharing experiences all the more enjoyable.

Please note, all content provided is for informational purposes, and is believed to be accurate and current at the time of posting. It should not, at any time, be used in place of appropriate professional or expert advice.