It might be hard to admit to feeling lonely, but research finds that people are increasingly isolated, and that loneliness is harmful to your health. We tend to have busy lives, and time with others is an area that often gets cut back as a result. In a large-scale study, researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that social integration is a stronger contributor to longevity than exercise, or quitting smoking or alcohol. Social integration means face-to-face interactions, even with strangers. Research also shows that in older people, social engagement is related to a higher level of cognitive function.
The Global Council on Brain Health makes several recommendations, including:
Among the primary interventions identified to ward off dementia are increasing physical activity and social contact, and decreasing depression.
An idea that came to me early in my applied improvisation training was that these exercises were like brain-training games, but instead of an individual alone with a screen, they are instead experiencing physical activity, social engagement, and the benefits of laughter. And all three of these elements are key in combating depression. And these are only a few of the benefits of improv! Cool, huh?