This Valentine’s Day, enrich your life by deepening your connections with others
- Communicate with close friends and family members in a consistent way
- Plan out-of-the-ordinary social activities
- Find a volunteer activity or class you can do together
- Give it time—lasting relationships are worth the effort
[4 MIN READ]
Last year, Valentine’s Day shoppers in the United States spent $3.8 billion on cards, candy, romantic dinners, flowers and gifts. But some people, weary of the commercialization surrounding this holiday, went a different route.
According to the National Retail Foundation, a small percentage of people recognized Valentine’s Day by getting together with family or friends, not romantic partners. Some made it official by celebrating Galentine’s Day, made popular by Leslie Knope, a character on TV show Parks and Recreation.
Maybe Leslie was on to something. Social connections (romantic and otherwise) have a major impact on our health and well-being, and honoring people you care about can deepen those relationships. Positive, lasting connections can:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with difficult experiences, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
But as we age, move on to new life experiences and even shift jobs or living arrangements, making new friends and staying connected with family can be difficult.
And let’s face it, binge watching Netflix at home with your sparse 30 minutes of free time at night is just a lot easier (and less of a commitment) than joining a book club or meeting friends at an art exhibit.
Deepen your bonds with the people closest to you
If you’re ready for deeper social connections, a good place to start is in your existing circle of friends and family. After all, those are the people who know and love you best. Here are a few ways to deepen the bonds:
- Be intentional about communicating through phone calls, emails, texts, Snapchats—whatever works. Consistency is bound to strengthen the ties that bind.
- Initiate deeper conversations. Instead of “What’s new?” and “How are you?” ask questions such as, “What are you looking forward to?” and “If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?”
- Offer help and support. This can be a small act of kindness such as running an errand for a relative, or a bigger one, such as watching a neighbor’s pets when they go out of town.
- Share words of encouragement. Your dad probably knows you appreciate him, and your best friend likely believes you’ll be there for her no matter what. But it’s always nice to hear it!
- Listen when loved ones share a problem or concern. By showing genuine interest, you let them know you care.
Hanging out with friends and family is nice, but it can become a bit routine. When you plan out-of-the-ordinary activities, you create shared experiences and lasting memories. And they don’t have to be expensive.
- Host a game night. Have each person bring a favorite board game or video game, and award a prize for the one that’s the most fun.
- Plan a group yard sale, and spend the profits on a group outing—the more you sell, the fancier the outing.
- Go to a karaoke or trivia night event at a local club. Promise each other you’ll take part, not just watch from the safety of your table.
- Blaze a new trail—literally. Find a local hiking trail or nature preserve, pack a picnic and enjoy the great outdoors.
- Support a local sports team or arts program together.
- Set up “conference calls” or phone dates with friends who may live far away. To make it more doable, keep it short and plan it for a certain night each month so you’ll be sure to keep in on your schedule.
Put yourself “out there” by volunteering or joining a group
Another way to deepen your friendships is to go beyond socializing to planning activities with a “higher purpose.” Volunteering with someone you know is a great example. It has the double benefit of helping others while also strengthening a friendship. Websites such as volunteermatch.org and unitedway.org can connect you with opportunities that match your interests, abilities and availability.
What about joining a club or taking a class with people who know (or would like to know better)? Consider:
- Participating in a book club
- Signing up for foreign language class or dance lessons
- Trying a new exercise class
- Getting involved with a local cause, such as preserving a park or planning an annual event.
Facebook can be a good place to look for more ideas. In the search bar at the top of your home page, type in “groups” and your city name to see local results.
Find a doctor
Strong friendships and lasting connections don’t happen overnight! But by taking small steps today, next week and throughout the year can enrich your life in many ways.
However, if you feel isolated or are struggling to make deep connections, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. If you don’t have one, our provider directory can help. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.
What’s a favorite activity you enjoy doing with family and friends? Share it with #friendships @psjh.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
About the AuthorMore Content by Providence Women's Health Team