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8 Ways to Strengthen Social Ties

We're social beings—we need others in our lives to thrive physically and emotionally. Discover ideas for widening your social circle.

At times, we all prefer to be alone—to take a long, contemplative walk or to sit quietly and enjoy the pleasures of a good book. But, there's also something to be said—a lot, actually—for spending time with other people.

“It appears that some people need very few social engagements while others seem to require a greater gathering of friends, but the reality is that everyone needs someone,” says John Walker, St. Claire HealthCare’s Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Having good friends and meaningful connections within our communities doesn't just make us happy, it offers surprising wellness benefits. For starters, our social ties may help us feel less stressed, lonely and depressed. They may even help us lead happier, healthier and longer lives.

“A life of wellness and joy requires one to learn the art of building connections and maintaining relationships with others. The best way to be a friend to yourself may very well be to find a friend for yourself,” says Walker.

How to strengthen your social ties

Would you like to make new friends? Or do you want to build better bonds with your current network? For ideas, consider these eight tips from the American Psychological Association and other experts:

  1. Be a joiner. Getting involved in your community can be rewarding in its own right, but you may even meet people with similar interests while you’re out and about. You might try:
    • Attending events like book readings, lectures or concerts. Check the calendars in online community bulletins or your newspaper's entertainment section for upcoming events.
    • Participating in hobby groups, civic clubs, or service groups.
    • Joining a sports league—like bowling or softball.
    • Taking classes to discover (or rediscover) a new skill, language, or art form.
    • Volunteering at a place of worship or an organization, program, or cause that you're passionate about.
  1. Extend an invitation. Is there someone you want to get to know better or spend more time with? Be the one to propose a social activity. For example, you might meet up for coffee, check out an art gallery or a museum exhibit, or take a walk, a bike ride, or an exercise class together.
  2. Book it. Life gets busy and before you know it weeks or months can go by without talking to family or friends. A solution? Schedule weekly reminders—just as you would for other important to-dos—to check in with the people who mean the most to you.
  3. Unplug. Put away your smartphone or headphones when you're out and about. It's a lot easier to make connections when you’re focused on the faces in front of you and the conversations around you.
  4. Meet and greet your neighbors. You've waved and smiled as you've walked or driven by. Next step: Stop and say hello. You might have a lot in common. You never know, your hello could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  5. Open up to a new friend. Sharing something personal about yourself (and vice versa) can help new friendships blossom. No need to spill your biggest secrets or most embarrassing moments. Just consider revealing something somewhat intimate—perhaps a story about a struggle you've overcome.
  6. Be an interviewer. One of the best ways to make or strengthen friendships? Show interest in the other person's thoughts and experiences. You can only do that by asking questions—and truly listening.
  7. Ask someone for help. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes—whether that's a ride to pick up a car from the mechanic or help to move a couch. Acts of kindness and assistance can be expressions of friendship. Your helper might turn out to be a great pal. And you can return the favor someday.