Good Reasons To Follow Through Even If You Love Canceling Plans

If you've been on the internet at any point in the last, oh, five or so years, you've undoubtedly seen memes celebrating the art of canceling plans and staying home. There's the viral post on Instagram with the text "*plans get canceled*" over a clip of an overjoyed TV audience, for example. Then there are the many clips on TikTok showing people reveling in relief after a friend bailed.

Along with these often humorous social media posts are real, serious messages about overcoming "cancel anxiety" and releasing guilt around calling plans off. One of the most popular ideas to come out of this pro-canceling movement is the belief that flaking can be a form of self-care.

To be clear, being a homebody isn't actually a bad thing, and skipping out on plans when you're overwhelmed or under the weather can, in fact, be self-care — it's important to put your personal needs first, rather than succumbing to the pressure to be social. But in a culture where canceling plans has become the norm, making a habit of skipping out at the last minute can actually become self-sabotage over time. Here's why it's worth it to peel yourself off the sofa and show up, even if you don't always feel like it.

Your friendships will grow stronger

A good friend will typically understand if you need to stay home to prioritize your well-being, but even your ride-or-die bestie may grow tired of your flakiness if it starts to become the rule, rather than the exception. As Shontel Cargill, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explained to Well+Good, "Trust is an important piece of relationships in general, but especially in friendship dynamics. [...] When it comes to cancelations, it's important to be honest with yourself about your availability and try not to overcommit. When you don't follow through on those plans, it changes the dynamics of the friendship and trust over time."

Besides building trust, the time you spend with friends face-to-face solidifies those relationships. Relying on texts and online communication simply isn't as gratifying, according to a 2010 study published in the journal "Social Indicators Research." Being in the moment together, laughing at the same joke in real-time, or bonding over a shared interest, can bring you closer. And FYI, if your friendship is still in its early stages, it might even be more crucial to follow through with plans: A 2018 study published in the "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships" suggested that it takes 50 hours of shared time together to form a friendship and 300 hours to form "best friendships."

Spending time with others is good for your health

There's nothing wrong with me-time here and there, but canceling plans and spending a significant amount of time alone with Netflix could be dangerous to your health. A 2015 research article published in "Perspectives on Psychological Science" found that loneliness and social isolation are associated with early mortality, while additional research has linked isolation with heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other health conditions (per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Christal Burnette, a longevity expert who has studied the lengthy lifespans of people in Okinawa, Japan, believes that keeping plans with friends is a key component to a long, healthy life. "I wish people would push themselves to always go out," she told Well+Good. "I always try to tell people that the secret to longevity is not food and exercise. [...] It's social connection." According to Burnette, people in Okinawa and other Blue Zones (areas where people live longer-than-average lives) put community at the center of nearly everything they do, from eating with loved ones to residing near family members and best friends. Even if you don't live in a Blue Zone, Burnette argues that it's possible to build your own tight-knit community by — first and foremost — not canceling. "Push yourself to get out of the house," she added. "Talk to people, and feel the friendliness."

Canceling now can make it even harder to socialize later

Life would be easy if social skills were like riding a bicycle — you learn one time as a kid, and the lesson sticks with you for the rest of your life. In reality, it can take time to build those skills, and even once you feel confident making small talk or setting boundaries with a friend, you still have to keep practicing to stay sharp.

The COVID-19 pandemic made this point painstakingly clear. "Research is showing that a lot of people are experiencing social anxiety for the first time post-pandemic," Laura Sniderman, founder and CEO of friendship app Kinnd, shared with Katie Couric Media. "Because we're out of practice when it comes to socializing, the experience of being social can feel new again. This can lead to feelings of discomfort in social situations; fears of being judged; and physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, or nausea. Because of this, a lot more people are avoiding social outings."

However, the longer you put off hanging out with friends, or the more frequently you choose to cancel, the more likely you'll continue to feel uncomfortable in social settings. If social anxiety is the reason for your "Sorry, something came up" texts, Medical News Today suggests gradually increasing the number of social interactions you allow in your schedule, along with seeking help from a therapist when needed.

You might be ignoring the real problem when you cancel

When it comes to canceling plans, there really aren't right or wrong reasons for doing so — wanting to stay home or spend your day doing something else is valid enough. Still, as Dr. Andrea Bonior, a psychologist and the author of "The Friendship Fix," told Refinery29, "If it regularly feels good to cancel plans, those plans probably shouldn't have been made in the first place."

Consider why you agreed to attend your neighbor's son's birthday party or make time for a coffee date with your friend from college. Then, note what might've changed since then. Did your inner people pleaser say yes to the invite, when deep down, you wanted to say no? Did you genuinely want to go before, but now you're exhausted from work? Chances are, there's a bigger problem behind your desire to bail.

Rather than accept the role of Flaky Friend in your squad, see where change may be in order. If you keep canceling on the same person because spending time with them drains you, learn to decline their invite next time (and maybe distance yourself from the friendship altogether). If your besties ask you to take part in things you don't enjoy, try speaking up next time about the kind of activities you prefer. And if stress and overwork are leaving you too depleted to leave your bedroom, try advocating for yourself in the workplace and visiting a therapist for alternative coping strategies.