While we know we are social beings, we’re not often taught how to connect our friendships to our health as we should. Deep relationships are tied to our happiness and our longevity. Feeling connected to other people can give you a sense of purpose and meaning, as well as confidence allowing you to face challenges, learn new things, and be resilient.
Studies have shown those in a happy marriage, for example, are less likely to die younger than those who do not have that same connection.
There is no question that our ideas around connection have changed significantly over the last two years, but even during these times how can we ensure we get that connection that we each so deeply need?
1. Make regular in-person dates with each of your closest friends.
It’s easy to call or text but we all know how valuable in-person meet-ups can be. Carving out time shows you care and are interested, and it’s just plain fun!
Ideally, try something that you and your friends have never done together before. Not only would you be learning something new but you’ll be creating lifelong memories for the ages. Go to the theatre and see a play, attend a concert, sit in on a lecture or maybe try a new local restaurant!
2. Expand your circle of close friends.
I’ve never heard anyone say they have too many friends. Expanding your circle of friends is a great way to engage with others and learn and experience new things.
Ask a person you admire to go out for coffee and see if a deeper friendship can be formed by getting to know them better. Not every opening will lead to a closer relationship, but you’ll discover how happy it makes people to be asked.
3. Become a better friend by becoming a better listener.
Sometimes, a friend just needs an empathetic ear. Maybe it's just to vent or to bring up something they’re passionate about. Regardless of the reason, you can become a better friend and deepen your connection by practicing the art of listening.
Start by removing or avoiding distractions. Ask what’s going on in their lives. Pay attention to what they say. (Don’t spend time trying to think of what you’re going to say next. Really listen.) When they share details of hard times, be empathetic but don’t give advice, unless they ask for it.
4. Make younger friends.
Develop friendships with people who are 20 years younger than you. It’s important to have friends who are a lot younger than you. As you age, younger friends encourage you to keep up physically and spark your creativity.
You can make younger friends by taking classes or joining a club. Sometimes, your friends’ adult kids become your friends as well. Mentoring is also an excellent way to engage with people 20-30 years younger than you. There are numerous organizations (schools, non-profits, churches) where you can offer your expertise.
5. Rid yourself of toxic relationships.
Commit to having friends with positive energy, who make you feel good about yourself. Don’t let history decide who your friends are. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, boss, coworker, spouse, or family member.
Set boundaries, be firm, and don’t let them take advantage of you. In the end, letting go may be the only thing you can do—and you’ll be healthier for it.
About the author:
Dwayne J. Clark is the Founder, CEO, and Chairman of Aegis Living, a best-selling author and longevity expert. His latest book, 30 Summers More, offers up the latest health and wellness research into longevity.