We are social beings. As humans, it’s in our nature to connect with loved ones and invest in community. Science supports what we already know intuitively: Engaging in social activities increases dopamine, a primary feel-good neurotransmitter.
Braincare is never about just one thing, and the benefits of community on brain health illustrate this beautifully. Social experiences within a community often produce positive psychological outcomes – including a sense of belonging, security, and purpose – that can further improve mental health by increasing our motivation to partake in health-promoting behaviors, like exercise and self-care. Participating in community-based interactions also increases opportunities to identify additional support and resources, which can serve as lifelines when things get tough.
These psychological benefits also have neurological effects: Community engagement can reduce the body’s negative stress response. When the body is under stress, we respond by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol increases blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose metabolism while slowing digestion and suppressing the immune system. These events define our “fight or flight” response and have negative consequences when constantly activated, sending us into a state of chronic stress. Engaging in community can decrease cortisol levels, helping to protect us from chronic stress and regulate our nervous systems. Forming connections and being a part of a community can result in a continuous feedback loop of positive psychological and neurological well-being.