April 17, 2018

Why we should get our Butts off the Couch & Start Going Out.

I have a new best friend: Harrison.

We are spending most of our free moments together—frequently engaged in quiet nights at home, sometimes by the fire, with fur babies by our feet relaxing, and unwinding from the calamity of a day’s work. I often find myself giddy during the day dreaming about our upcoming nights spent entwined in our newfound coziness.

A typical evening entails us enjoying solace and sweet solitude along with a steady menu of salty snacks, a binge of the latest television shows, oversized pajama pants, and my favorite hand sewn, plaid flannel blanket. Harrison is an enduring and attentive companion offering gentle back rubs and silent accord.

Our relationship provides a welcome change from the hustle I previously relished as a commensurate social butterfly that craved stimulus and endless outings with my favorite people.

Lately, however, I’m taking notice that my PJs are getting worn to the point of threadbare, the snacks taste tale, and Harrison’s warm, harmonious demeanor is starting to unnerve and bore me.

My awakening is to be expected as a friendship with an inanimate object isn’t exactly ideal or reciprocal. Harrison is not a person—it is my brownish-black Corinthian leather sofa.

Yes, I’m genuinely sad to admit, I have named my couch.

I coined my coveted sectional sofa after Harrison Ford, one of my beloved big screen actors, and I convinced myself that it was charming for a while to pass on invitations and reservations with a casual quip, “I’m just going to stay home and chill with Harrison”, but my blanket response to friends and family is assuredly evolving from mildly funny into the realm of pitiful and sad.

Slowly, I am morphing into someone invested in spending my free hours in the confines of my cozy cocoon and safe haven retreating from real-life capers and experiences. And, I can’t say that I like the effects this new routine is having on my outlook and well-being. Not only are my muscles atrophying, my social skills are diminishing right along with them.

Some nights, I peel myself from Harrison’s vortex, take a lazy stretch, and peer out the picture window in my living room to see the purple dappled city skyline and envision the dinner party conversations, open mic performances, and book readings that I am missing. Then, I hear the chime of the next episode of my favorite new show about to start and I retreat back to my tucked up nest of seclusion.

Many of us are joining in on the stay at home movement and succumbing to the trappings and comforts of home over the endeavors of adventuring elsewhere.

According to a global research firm, Kantar TNS, the average person aged 16-30 with internet access, spends 3.1 hours a day on their mobile devices, almost a whole day every week. That doesn’t leave much time to allocate to going out, let alone making mindful connections when we do.

Do you remember the 1990s? People went out in droves—to clubs, restaurants, parties, and concerts. This might be due to the circumstance of necessity. If you were fortunate enough to own a mobile phone, it was the size of a brick and didn’t have text capability. A night at home was probably destined for disappointment and typically bleak, consisting of a microwave meal and bad sitcom reruns.

What is the appeal of hunkering down at home versus the enticement of going out?

Safety. We cling to caution and sacrifice tangible experiences for virtual realities courtesy of video chat, internet, and on demand programming. We also can socialize online and order the meal we’ve been craving all day without taking a step outside.

Going out requires risk. Sure, we may run into an ex or someone we deem unsavory, get a drink spilled on a new dress, or far worse, get mugged, but the potential reward of meeting someone incredible or discovering a new passion outshines the risk of staying inside and taking zero chances.

Financial constraints. A night out these days doesn’t come cheap, not to mention a daylong excursion in the city, a weekend road trip, or a multiple course meal. Partaking in these activities can quickly eat away at our disposable income and in turn cause stress when trying to meet the monthly bills. Most of us have witnessed at least one financial crisis in our lifetime and don’t care to feel the strain of another crunch acerbated by costly late nights that lead into Sunday brunch.

So, why should we occasionally trade in our slippers for stilettos and our tablets for table service?

Live longer. In a recent TED talk, psychologist Susan Pinker ranked nine components that contribute to living longer and reducing the chance of dying. Of these nine factors, including exercise, access to clean air, and quitting smoking/drinking, the number one lifestyle predictor for living longer is social integration followed by close relationships. Our social lives it seems, or lack thereof, could be the key to longevity or an early demise. I interpret this surprising statistic as a guilt free opportunity to say yes to the next invitation for a get together.

Be happier. When we interact with someone face-to-face versus on screen, our brain releases the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, and we perceive an enhanced level of social intelligence and emotional reward. Moreover, cultivating and continuing personal friendships fights off disease and lowers stress levels. We experience moments of joy when we see, touch, and hear the people we cherish in the flesh. A virtual cyber hug is a wonderful thing but it doesn’t possess the powerful impact on our happiness as the real deal provides.

Support the viability of going out. We need to get out into the world and feel the joy, sorrow, beauty, and awe that it has to offer, and the outside world needs us desperately in return. If we stop frequenting the establishments that we once patronized, their supply will shrink and the only feasible options that we enjoy in the company of others will slowly but surely become home-based.

The food will be delivered, the shopping will be done online, the concerts will be watched from home, and yoga instructors will teach from the screen. Our conveniences will increase along with our loneliness and disconnection. Brick and mortar businesses will dwindle and venues will dry up and become deserted.

Make memories. When we reach the twilight of our lives and take stock of our best and worst years, it will not be the podcasts we listened to or the shows we watched that we will remember; it will be the time we spent with others that will leave the most indelible marks in our memories. It is those moments that engage all the senses in person with the individuals we love and some we despise that will linger the longest in our recesses.

It’s been a long, voluntary hibernation and hiatus from the land of the living and I recognize that it’s finally time to get off my butt and get back out there.

I may continue to partake in a few quiet nights at home curled up with Harrison, but I am conspiring to downgrade our friendship status from best friend forever to casual acquaintance. Sorry, sofa, but I’ve got a brand new pair of shiny shoes just vying for an epic night out on the town.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~ Helen Keller 


Author: Kristen Ward 
Image: YouTube 
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron

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