Why Spending Time With Your Family Is A Great Activity For Brain Health

Humans are a communal species, so it only makes sense that time spent in groups aids our well-being. At its most basic level, the family is the foundation of human community and time spent in familial groups cannot be understated. But, did you know spending time with your family is actually a great activity to sustain brain health?

Studies have shown that strong social connections positively impact mental health. Once such study by PLOS ONE showed that reports on social circles better predicted participants' stress, happiness, and well-being levels than physical health data collected by a fitness tracker, per Highland Springs Clinic. Being close, both physically and emotionally, with your family is essential to creating a full, meaningful life. Of course, one's definition of family can differ from person to person. Whether it is parents and siblings, or relatives and close friends, the people you consider family have an impact on your brain and your body. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the world has learned the power of staying connected digitally during quarantine isolation. FaceTime dates, group chats, and social media exchanges took the place of coffee outings and communal meals. But face-to-face communication with loved ones is an important part of a healthy mind. Highland Springs Clinic reported that gathering together in-person with those you love "significantly reduces the occurrence of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness." When family relationships are strong and quality time is a common occurrence, people seek out healthier coping mechanisms to relieve stress and handle hardship. 

The power of family dinners

It's no secret that stress not only affects mental health, but physical health, as well. And the same goes for positive actions such as time with family. A study conducted by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine (via Piedmont Healthcare) found that, when people confided in those close to them, such as friends and family members, about hardships in their lives, they had lower pulse rates and blood pressure levels. 

With endless benefits of family time, you are likely looking for the best way to integrate it into your own life. Well, there are few options for getting together that have withstood the test of time better than a good, old-fashioned family sit-down meal. Family meals are fewer and farther between in modern culture — with or without an ongoing pandemic. The combined stresses of busy schedules and pressures not to "waste time eating" work against the structure of family meals (per Child Development Info). But, whether you are raising young children or simply trying to set aside time with your adult family members, getting together around the dinner table is a great option. 

Recent studies have found that communal meals are associated with better mental and physical health, improved social skills, and lowered health risks for children across the board. Through mealtimes, family members can connect and bond, thereby reducing stress and improving mental health (per Brain Fodder). Although "easier said than done" amid the ongoing pressures of COVID-19, scheduling time to connect with family remains key. Your brain will thank you later.