Written by Jenny Smiechowski, staff writer for The Birches
What does healthy living mean to you? To most people, it means eating well and exercising. And those are two crucial parts of a healthy lifestyle. But there’s another part that’s just as important yet often overlooked: staying socially connected.
Research shows that socially active people are healthier, live longer, and stay mobile and independent well into their older years. They also have better mental health, feel happier and are more fulfilled in their lives.
Despite all these benefits, it’s easy to get into a social rut. It happens to all of us. You fall out of touch with friends. You spend a lot of time at home on the couch instead of out in the world (especially in the winter). Or you’re shy and struggle to meet new people.
Whatever social challenges you face, here are a few simple tips to help you break free from old habits, so you can have a thriving social life:
- Reconnect with friends and family. Reconnecting with people who you’ve known for a long time is a great first step to becoming more social. It’s so easy to fall out of touch with people you care about, but it’s never too late to rekindle that connection. You can do that by:
- Calling a friend or family member you haven’t talked to for a long time.
- Sending a card or letter to an old friend.
- Organizing a family photo or family reunion to bring your family together.
- Inviting friends from high school or college out to lunch.
- Inviting your childhood best friend over for tea or coffee.
- See every interaction as an opportunity to be social. Most of us come across a lot of people in our day-to-day lives—the cashier at the grocery store, the person standing behind you in line at the coffee shop, the person delivering your mail or package, the neighbor walking her dog. But how often do we seize these chances to connect with people? Every time you come into contact with another person, see it as an opportunity to be social. Start by:
- Smiling at everyone who crosses your path.
- Introducing yourself to someone you’ve never met before.
- Striking up a conversation with someone you see a lot but never talk to, like a neighbor, mailperson or store clerk.
- Performing a random act of kindness for someone, like paying for a stranger’s coffee, baking cookies for an acquaintance, letting someone go in front of you in line or leaving a 100 percent tip for your server.
- Giving someone you don’t know (or don’t know well) a compliment.
- Pursue your passions. One of the best ways to overcome a social slump is to get out in the world and do the things you love. Soon you’ll start meeting other people who share your passions and interests. You can start by:
- Volunteering for a cause you care about.
- Joining a book club.
- Taking a class at your local park district, library or community college.
- Teaching a class at your local park district, library or community college.
- Attending a concert, poetry reading or book signing.
- Joining a community theater troupe.
- Try new activities and experiences. It’s great to reconnect with people you already know, and try activities you already like. But there are fun surprises in store for you if you try something new. Not only could you find a new passion or hobby, but you could meet interesting people who you never would’ve met otherwise. These people will likely be different from you and the other people in your life—but that’s good! The more diverse your social circle, the better. You can start trying new things and connecting with new people by:
- Joining a flash mob.
- Attending a black-tie gala.
- Participating in a charity walk.
- Attending a murder mystery dinner.
- Traveling by train.
- Going to the opera.
- Eating at a food truck.
- Taking an improv comedy class.
- Attending a gallery opening.
The list of ways to be more social is endless. What you choose to do will depend on what makes you feel inspired and excited. But remember, becoming more social and trying new things will most likely put you out of your comfort zone. The trick is to feel the discomfort and do it anyway. Once it’s over, you’ll be happy you tried something new…especially once you find yourself living a super social and surprisingly exciting life.
“Masterpiece Living at Home” is a blog series that helps you stay engaged socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually, so you can age healthfully and successfully. Click “follow” at the top of this post to subscribe to our blog and receive more successful aging tips. To learn more about the successful aging movement, visit the Masterpiece Living website.