Our popular Feel Like a Million health promotion campaign offers more than a dozen ways participants can boost energy and reduce stress. One element highlights the importance of meaningful connections with friends and family in:
- Increasing overall health. A 2004 American Journal of Health Behavior study found frequent contact with friends is linked to having complete health (optimal physical and mental health, including 1 or no chronic conditions and consistent energy levels).
- Enhancing longevity. A 2013 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study linked social isolation with shorter lifespans — regardless of income, health status, or perceived level of loneliness. This data aligns with a 2010 finding that people with strong social connections have 50% higher likelihood of survival.
- Relieving depression. A 2014 Canadian Institute for Advance Research study found joining and building strong ties with a social group help those with clinical depression recover and help prevent relapse.
- Promoting feelings of happiness. A 2008 British Medical Journal study concluded those who are more connected with others in their social network, directly or indirectly, are more likely to be happier, short and long term.
Meaningful connections are made when there’s full engagement between people, one to one or in small groups, where you’re completely tuned in to them and they are to you. While meaningful connections often occur without planning, it’s easy to miss the opportunities as the day whizzes by. Here are a few ideas to make the most of them:
- Family meals. There’s no better way to stay connected than eating together.
- Special night. Setting aside an evening each week for individual time with a spouse or child helps strengthen bonds that last a lifetime.
- Scheduled weekly calls. Email exchanges with distant relatives or friends are good, but not as meaningful as regular phone conversations.
- Offsite lunches. A sack lunch shared in the park with a colleague or loved one is the ideal setting for meaningful connections.
- Workplace affinity groups. Gathering around a shared interest — like Toastmasters International®, a book club, or walking group — is a natural way to build relationships.
While you can’t supply a definition for meaningful connections to each participant, they’ll know it when they feel it. It doesn’t have to be about deepest thoughts… it can be as simple as a sincere “How was your day?” then really listening for the answer.