February is Heart Health Month. While staying active and eating healthy are important to maintaining this important organ, today, we’re talking about the more emotional side of your heart and connecting with your loved ones. Read on to learn the surprising health benefits of staying connected, how to keep in touch, and how to create new friendships.
Health Benefits of Close Relationships
As social beings, we thrive when we’re supported by and connected to our peers, friends, and family. And, according to clinical and research studies, keeping these relationships strong can have a huge effect on your health. For example, in a study comparing lonely individuals to those with strong social ties, isolated individuals doubled their risk of death, regardless of self-reported health status. In a similar study, having few relationships and/or poor quality relationships was linked to conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and slow wound healing. 1, 2, 3, 4
While you don’t need to have 20 close friends, these studies show that strong social ties are closely related to health. Having a few close friends, or even just one, can help you overcome life’s difficulties and fully enjoy the good things in your life.
How To Stay Connected To Friends And Family
Staying in touch can be hard, especially when friends and family aren’t close by. Thanks to today’s technology, staying in touch with your most far-flung loved ones is much easier than it used to be. Whether your friends are close or far, try these tips for staying connected:
- Pick up the phone.
Phone calls are hard to beat when it comes to staying in touch. Plus, thanks to applications like Skype and FaceTime, you can video chat and have a face-to-face conversation. If you’re looking to connect more, try to call one friend or family member each week.
- Use social media.
Social media isn’t just for kids and teenagers - plenty of adults are active on platforms like Facebook. Social media is a great way to share photos, videos, and stories with many friends at once, and you can stay up-to-date on your friends’ latest life updates.
- Try texting or emailing.
If you’re looking for a way to connect quickly and regularly, try texting or emailing. You can even attach pictures or videos to show your friends what’s new in your life.
- Schedule visits.
Technology is a great way to stay connected, but there’s nothing like seeing your loved ones face-to-face. Try to schedule a weekly or monthly visit with friends that live nearby. Plan something fun to do together, like a walk in the park, playing board games, or trying out a new restaurant.
Create New Friendships
As we age, it’s natural to lose some friendships due to moves, retirement, and other life factors. However, making new friends is possible - you just have to be willing to put in a little effort. If you’re interested in expanding your social circle, try these tips:
- Join a club or class.
Making friends is easier when you’re surrounded by like-minded people. Sign up for a recurring club or class, and go to their events. Try to stay in the club for at least 3 months to give yourself a chance to truly connect. If you’re still unsure if the club is right for you after 12 weeks, move on to another one.
- Attend community events.
Most neighborhoods sponsor community events, which is a great place to meet new friends. Look online for listings of community events you’d be interested in attending.
- Start volunteering.
Volunteering can not only make you feel more fulfilled, but can also give you the opportunity to connect with other volunteers or program employees.
Staying connected starts with a few small steps. Just like other heart healthy practices, like eating right and exercising, remember to be patient with yourself and keep trying until you find what works for you.