Posted on: March 17, 2020 | Dr. Todd Thatcher In our world of pervasive screen time and social media, many of us have actually become less social in the ways that are not only beneficial, but essential to our mental and physical well-being. A Cigna study from the American Journal of Health Promotion indicated that excessive social media use is one of the biggest risk factors for loneliness. We need in-person interactions to reap the full benefits of social connection. Those who experience less loneliness cultivate meaningful relationships, including a social network and a committed relationship. A PLOS ONE study showed that participants’ stress, happiness, and well-being levels were better predicted by their social circle strength than by the physical health data collected on a fitness tracker. This shows just how important time with family (or close friends you call family) is to your physical and mental health. The benefits of spending time with family is such a critical component of a full, meaningful life. Remember, family doesn’t necessarily have to be considered blood relatives. Close friends, a guardian, or step siblings are well within the realm of who you consider family. Get Family Counseling Here Health Benefits of Spending Time with Family Improves Mental Health. Interacting with a close social network—especially face-to-face communication, as opposed to digital—significantly reduces the occurrence of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness. Being physically present with loved ones creates a strong emotional support to buoy you up through life’s challenges. Helps children perform well academically. On average, kids who spend more time with their parents tend to do better in school. They learn communication skills and the importance of education. When needed, assisting with assignments or new concepts reinforces the fact that their success is important to you. Even just asking about their day and what they’re learning will show your children how much you care. Lowers risk of behavioral problems. Children who spend more time with their families have shown less risk of behavioral issues, such as violence and substance abuse. When they receive positive attention for positive behaviors, it increases their desire to continue those healthy patterns. Doing activities together also provides an outlet for pent-up emotions that could otherwise lead to unhealthy decisions. If a child (or teenager) feels comfortable bringing problems to you for a listening ear and advice, they will be better equipped to cope with problems and make positive choices. Boosts self-confidence. Spending time with family builds confidence for all of its members. Parents can teach children to build self-esteem through specific skills such as problem solving and communication. They can also model the ability to love oneself without degrading others. For parents and children, confidence grows simply with the knowledge that they are valued and appreciated by their loved ones. Helps kids learn future parenting skills. The memories you create together will instill in children a desire to foster that same loving atmosphere in their own future homes. Through your example, your kids learn important caregiving skills that they can use one day. They may even practice now by copying your behaviors when they interact with siblings. Teaches effective conflict resolution. Being part of a family is fun, but it can be difficult, too. When conflicts arise, you can’t just walk away for good. You’re in this together, so you have to work together to solve the issues that come up. Family time teaches interpersonal communication skills including healthy, constructive ways to discuss, debate, and solve problems. Reduces stress. Those with healthy relationships tend to seek out healthier coping mechanisms for stress—such as confiding in friends and family—instead of other unhealthy outlets. Establish a habit of talking through problems together to relieve stress and find effective solutions. Stress also significantly affects aspects of physical health, such as fatigue, blood pressure, and heart health. The Annals of Behavioral Medicine conducted a study that found when people discussed hardships in their lives with a friend beside them (instead of alone), they had lowered pulse and blood pressure readings. Promotes adaptability and resilience. Your ability to face life’s changes and challenges is greatly improved by a strong family bond. Knowing that you belong, you are cared for, and you are needed, provides a sense of meaning and purpose. This assurance gives motivation to push forward, grow, and succeed. Enhances physical health. With the right kind of activities, time with family can positively impact physical well-being. For instance, families who eat home-cooked meals together tend to have a better diet than those who don’t. Participating in outdoor activities like sports games, hikes, or gardening together helps to improve fitness. There’s even evidence that time with family can boost the effects of exercise and other healthy habits. It improves heart, brain, hormonal, and immune health. And families can encourage one another to maintain healthy lifestyles. Lengthens life expectancy. Healthy relationships could increase your lifespan up to 50%. Combine all the physical and mental health benefits discussed above, and you can see why family time has been linked to living a longer, healthier, happier life. Even those with unhealthy physical habits, but a strong social network live longer than those without these relationships. Make Family Time a Priority With all these incredible benefits of a supportive social network, you can see why spending time with family is important. While it’s fun to invite friends and family to spend quality time together, it’s also a significant aspect of your physical health and mental well-being. Put down the phone, gather together, and create some fun, meaningful memories. Making time to connect with family requires a bit of planning—sometimes a bit of money—but the investment is well worth it for the outcomes of healthy individuals and strong family bonds. For guidance to nurture your family relationships, learn more about our Family Counseling at Highland Springs Clinic. Learn More Dr. Todd ThatcherDr. Thatcher, DO, CMRO, works with the Valley Behavioral Health’s Director of Nursing providing supervision and oversight of medical operations for over 70 medical staff members and medical issues in over 70 clinics and facilities in Utah, Boise Idaho, and Phoenix Arizona. His major medical initiatives include telehealth, integrated care, medication-assisted treatment, and substance abuse services, forensics services, and seamless integration of jail/prison/mental health court & drug court/probation/parole services with behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, ValleyLab blood and urine drug testing, data analytics to drive better outcomes & computerized automation of standardized measurement tools, and Brainsway Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation clinic.