This past year got us thinking about all the meals we missed having with friends. We were curious about the benefits of these social outings, so we asked an expert. Here, Dr. Samantha Boardman shares her thoughts.
During lockdown, many of us skipped meals, snacked more and dined alone in front of a TV screen. While eating this way was convenient and comforting, it lacked an essential nutrient: social connection or Vitamin S. There are immeasurable benefits to sitting down for a real meal with other people. Here are four reasons to break bread with others.
1. It’s More than a Meal
While social eating may not always suit your schedule, it is definitely worth making time for. Research from the University of Oxford found that the more we eat with other people, the happier we are and the more satisfied we are with our lives. Dining with others enhances trust and feelings of closeness. If you are looking to truly reconnect with someone who you haven’t seen in a while, plan a meal together. Telling stories and laughing over dinner amplifies social bonding and engagement. It is no surprise a study found that breaking bread with an ex will trigger more jealousy in your current partner than having a drink or coffee. The research speaks to the intimate nature of breaking bread together. It’s never just about the food.
2. It Helps People Get Along
Research from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found that sharing plates of food facilitates cooperation. In the study, participants were paired with a partner and then given a topic to negotiate. Half of the pairs received one bowl of chips and salsa to share, while the others were each given their own bowl. The teams who shared bowls behaved more cooperatively and less competitively toward each other and came to an agreement more efficiently than those who ate from separate bowls. Sitting around the dinner table, telling stories and passing the potatoes is an opportunity to bring people together, even those who have different points of view.
3. Food tastes better together
We all know that good experiences are even better when they are shared. This applies to food, too. Participants in a study rated chocolate as more delicious when they ate it at the same time as another, rather than when they ate it by themselves. The mere act of sharing influenced how the chocolate tasted. From personal experience, this holds true. I polished off a container of ice cream the other day by myself and it was good. A few days later, I shared a bowl of ice cream with a friend I hadn’t seen in a year and it was awesome.
4. It boosts productivity
Food not only tastes better when eaten in the company of others, research shows it also enhances productivity. A study compared firehouses where the firefighters shared group meals to firehouses that favored solo dining. The firefighters who broke bread together received higher marks for team performance than firefighters who dined alone. Communal dining acts as “social glue,” bonding the group and enhancing connection and community.
After a year apart, let’s make time to dine together.
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman