I am, like most people, perpetually busy. Countless appointments, school functions, church activities, and extracurriculars fill my schedule. I’m well-connected and always have people at my fingertips via a quick text or social media, and yet I often want to retreat into silence, yoga pants, and my ever-faithful sofa for the evening after so much busyness. I’m not alone in this sentiment, either—graphic T-shirts and internet memes alike celebrate the beauty of staying indoors, leaving parties early and how dogs (or cats) are better friends than people. Maybe it’s the toll the ever-present pressure of digital connection takes, or the general sense of constantly being busy that many of us have—whatever it is, we’re all exhausted.
And while staying home and recharging is definitely important and even a healthy self-care practice at times—especially for those who are more introverted than others—what if our collective focus on hiding away from the world is hindering us socially and even spiritually?
Personally, I’m right in the middle of extroversion and introversion, but I can safely say that I totally identify with wanting to stay home and tuck myself away after a long week. Though I love my friends and family, it sometimes feels like too much effort to make plans (and not bail on them), and I end up searching for ways to practice “hygge” before it’s even time to turn on my heater. So, when you feel the need to have human interaction but your Netflix watch list is calling your name, remember these things to help you fight the urge to cancel your plans.
1. Connection increases longevity
Study after study after study has concluded that being socially connected increases our lifespan. Having strong relationships can help reduce stress and literally make us healthier. For me, this is absolutely true. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and honestly, it’s easy to get sucked into my own routine of taking kids places, preparing meals, and making sure the baby takes good naps. It can all feel very overwhelming and stressful—to the point where adding in social engagements feels like just another thing to check off my list. But when I actually go to the party, or the playdate, or even just meet a friend at the park, much of my anxiety about small things is forgotten, and I’m able to breathe easier, let go of stressors and focus on what’s important. This allows me to feel better physically. Often my clenched jaw relaxes with shared laughter, and though I’m not usually wearing a heart rate monitor, I can feel my breathing relax.
2. Friends carry each other’s burdens
There are big things that we all will struggle with. Everyone has pain and disappointment in their lives. And while texting and online communication aren’t bad, sometimes you literally need a shoulder to cry on. Or maybe your friends do. When you make time for people, you’re able to know what they need prayer for, how to counsel them through a difficult season, and share your own heartbreaks and fears. We’re all called to carry each other’s burdens, but we can’t do that well if we don’t know how they’re actually doing, and not just what funny things they’ve posted this month online. Meeting with friends in person, regularly and often, will strengthen your relationships and give you a sense of support—that’s something you’ll never get from a couch session.
I’m part of a community group at my church that meets every Tuesday night. It’s a big group with families, single people, empty nesters, and everything in between. We’re all different, but we share a common understanding of our faith, and come Tuesday night, we are together. We have a running group text where we check in throughout the week, and we share a lot of life with each other—burdens included. I’ll admit that it’s hard to make myself go to these gatherings sometimes. There’s always a list of chores to be done, and the ever-present nagging temptation of a cozy night in. But the benefit of sharing my burdens and helping others carry theirs has been irreplaceable in my life.
3. It makes us happy
One study showed that having a good or “best” friend brought the same amount of happiness that a large boost in income sometimes brings people. Obviously money can’t buy happiness, but perhaps friends can. It takes a little effort, but investing in friendships with those around is invaluable. I love a Friday night movie-fest in my pajamas like anyone else, but I’ve come to realize that a few good friends—and actually spending time with them–is worth more than most things in life.