Staying home alone is a necessary (and wonderful, and healthy) thing to do. It allows you to relax, recharge, and just "be" with yourself. But if you do it too often, you might start showing signs you aren't going out enough. Whether it's a way-too-long Netflix binge, increasing social anxiety, or hints of depression, there are ways to know it's time to get out into the world, see some friends, or at least nod at your neighbor.
That's because leaving your house, and being social, is an important part of maintaining your mental health. As NYC-based psychotherapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW says, "It's important to have a social life because when you're with others it becomes harder to be stuck in your own negativity. Social interaction also engages the brain by keeping us mentally engaged."
It's important to keep in mind, however, that going out "enough" means different things to different people. If you feel good going out once a week, then once is "enough" for you. It's also important to remember that "going out" has different meanings, too.
"Where most folks get into trouble is they try to be social according to other people's expectations and standards," says clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. "Going to clubs, bars, dinner dates, concerts, theaters, gatherings, etc." While these more typical destinations are certainly great, going out could also mean volunteering at an animal shelter, checking out a museum, or visiting family. They all get you out of the house, expand your mind, and keep you social. Read on for some signs you aren't doing any of these things nearly enough.
1. Your Friends Have Officially Stopped Calling
If you've consistently said "no" to every invite in recent memory, then you might notice a slow tapering off of said invites. Take this as a warning. "People [will] stop calling and texting because they don't want to get a 'no' from you anymore," says psychologist Dr. Susan Bartell, in an email to Bustle. While you don't have to drop everything just because someone calls, it is important to maintain your friendships by being more social.
2. You Haven't Put On "Real" Clothes In Forever
Take a look at your dirty clothes pile. Is it all pajamas and hole-y yoga pants? If so, life coach Danny Zoucha tells me it may point to your growing isolation. While it's perfectly OK to wear comfy clothes — and to hang out by yourself — it is so important to occasionally put on something nicer and hit the town.
3. Whenever You Do Go Out You're Super Awkward
If you aren't going out into the world often enough, it can start to take a toll on your ability to be social. You might find yourself acting super awkward around friends, or being uncharacteristically tense, NYC-based relationship and wellness coach Shula Melamed, MA, MPH tells me. This is a sign that you need to make socializing a more regular part of your routine.
4. All Your Stories Are About Something You Saw On TV
While I totally understand the need to wax poetic about particularly good TV shows, it's not a great sign if it's the only thing you have to talk about. "We are social creatures," says life coach Erica McCurdy, in an email to Bustle. "We are not and were never meant to watch the world from a screen." If you are living vicariously through Netflix or TV, or don't have any of your own experiences, it may be time to change that.
5. The Thought Of Going Out Makes You Nervous
If you're dealing with something like social anxiety disorder, you might feel like it's easier to just stay home. But doing so can actually make things worse. "It's a good idea to get out of the house to work on feeling comfortable again in social situations," clinical psychologist Joel Minden, PhD tells Bustle. "The best way ... is by gradually increasing social activity. Starting with something small and manageable, like having coffee with a close friend, is an easy first step to take."
6. You've Been Feeling A Bit "Blah"
"Blah" is my super unscientific word for a mixture of loneliness, boredom, and lack of inspiration. While there's plenty of great things to do while alone at home — exercise, paint, draw, write, watch documentaries — it's important to have real human interactions. "When the brain is activated and stimulated by conversations, a person is challenged to work a little harder to respond back with stimulating discussions," says psychotherapist Kristina Orlova, LMFT. So basically, going out can restart your brain and get creative juices flowing again.
7. It's Been A Minute Since You Saw Friends In Person
While it's perfectly OK to maintain friendships via Facebook, it certainly isn't a replacement for genuine face-to-face interactions. That's why, as life coach Craig Foust tells me, it's important to monitor how much time you spend on social media. If you're online more than twice as much as you're actually with friends, it may be time to go out more often.
8. Depression Seems To Be Creeping Its Way Into Your Life
As Foust says, "Lack of social interaction can easily lead to depression in most people, especially if they are isolating for weeks at a time." Humans are social beings, so make sure you schedule time for social stuff if you can. If not, make a point of seeking some form of treatment for your depression so you can get back to feeling OK again.
9. Your Sex Drive Is At An All Time Low
Isolating yourself can lead to depression, and one symptom of depression is a lowered sex drive. That's why, as Foust tells me, you should also be on the look out for a sudden lack of desire to be intimate. It could mean you need to get back out there and be social. Or, again, seek some form of treatment.
10. It's Getting Difficult To Imagine Life From Another Person's Perspective
If your life and/or your problems are starting to feel like the center of the universe, it may be time to get some perspective. "A social life ... helps us develop an outside perspective to our own experiences," Foust says. "This simply means we are better able to take a step back from our own circumstances and see it differently." Whether that means seeing friends, volunteering, or just talking to a neighbor — it all helps.
11. You're Forgetting How To Chat, Make Jokes, Etc.
If it's been a hot minute since the last time you made a public appearance, you might notice a slight waning in your ability to "hang." As Foust tells me, social skills definitely get lost over time if you don't continue to use them. "Losing confidence, aspects of your humor, or even the rapport you have with friends is common if [you're] not engaged socially with them."
So go ahead and get back out there — at least a little more regularly. I promise, it'll be good for you.