6 Tips to Creating More Meaningful Social Connections
1. Make Plans With a Friend — and Keep Them
→ Meet in person. Connecting with friends on social media or through text is easy, but try to catch up with your friends in person whenever possible. Face-to-face interactions help deepen social connections in part by allowing us to see and hear our friends’ nonverbal communication — body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. So meet for coffee, go for a walk, or do something else where you can put away your phones and give each other your undivided attention.
Research shows that friendships have the power to influence our lives in many ways, including boosting our physical and mental health. Friendships increase opportunities for social contact and decrease social isolation — a known risk factor for depression and suicidal thoughts. Friends make us laugh, listen to our problems, and are there for us when we need them. Having even one close friend can make us feel loved and important, and that feeling can be lifesaving.
If you are concerned one of your friends may be depressed or thinking about suicide, it’s vital to talk to them about it. Don’t stay silent. Here’s how you can talk to a friend about suicide. You can also learn the warning signs of suicide so that you can help your friends stay safe during an emotional crisis.
2. Prioritize Family Time
→ Plan to be together. With the hustle and bustle of life, carving out family time can take planning. There are lots of activities families can do together, but what’s important is being together in an environment of trust, security, and acceptance. Try to share at least a few meals together each week. Plan a family road trip or vacation. Organize a reunion with extended family members. If you are separated from your family for long periods, use technology to video chat and share frequent updates with one another.
Closeness with family provides a sense of security and a steady source of love and support. Family members help us solve problems and overcome adversities. Strong family relationships can provide a lifelong sense of connection and belonging.
3. Find a Mentor or Become One
→ Join a mentorship program in your area.
Mentorship is beneficial for both the mentor and mentee. If your place of employment offers a mentorship program, take advantage of it. If it doesn’t, look up mentorship programs in your area. You don’t have to join a formal program to reap the benefits. If you’re in a senior role at your job, reach out to newer employees and offer direction and advice. This will not only help you enhance your leadership skills, but you will also feel the satisfaction of helping someone. If you’re new to your field or career, don’t be afraid to turn to more experienced colleagues for mentorship. This can help you advance your career and expand your professional and personal connections.
For many of us, our jobs or careers play a central role in our lives. In addition to providing a livelihood, they give us a sense of purpose, provide us with direction, inspire us to set goals, and boost our self-confidence. Feeling connected to our jobs helps us achieve professional fulfillment, and we can make that connection through mentorship.
4. Get Involved With New Hobbies or Reconnect With Old Hobbies
→ Start with a list. Make a list of all the activities you love or used to love. Go through your list and look for groups in your area related to those activities. Try to join a group that’s not connected with your work or other commitments. If no group exists, consider starting one. Try a hobby that’s new and challenging or one you’ve always thought about trying. Don’t hesitate to try something else if your first choice doesn’t turn out the way you hoped.
It’s OK to do something purely for your own benefit. In fact, there are countless health benefits to having a hobby you love. You can strengthen personal relationships by joining others who share your passion and by opening yourself up to new people, new friends, and new connections. Your new hobby can add excitement to your life, increase personal satisfaction, relieve stress, build self-confidence, and so much more. Looking for a hobby, consider volunteer opportunities with SAVE.
5. Give Back to Your Community
→Look up volunteer opportunities near you. Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose, and compassion for others makes us feel better. Help a neighbor with yard work, volunteer at your local food bank or animal shelter, or donate to your favorite nonprofit. If you belong to a religious group, get involved with its community service projects. If you want to make changes in your neighborhood or community, run for city council or the school board, or coordinate with others to tackle local issues. Another way to get involved is to offer yours skills to help others, for example, by leading a free yoga class or doing design work for a small startup or nonprofit.
Research shows that the more connected you feel to your community, the more inclined you are to take care of yourself and others. If you’re interested in bringing suicide prevention programming to your community, learn more about our National Outreach Network (NON) to join or start a SAVE Charter near you.
6. Practice Self-Care
→Set aside some time for yourself. There are countless activities we can do on a regular basis to improve our mental and physical health. Take a moment to reflect on what you do now for you. Here are some fundamental self-care activities:
- Taking care of your body. Eating well and getting enough exercise and sleep are fundamental to both your physical and mental wellness.
- Practicing mindfulness or meditation. Mindfulness and meditation are two practices meant to bring you into the present and make you aware of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. This can help prevent a situation or other stimulus from triggering anxiety or an overreaction. Hear from mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe in his short TED Talk, All it takes is 10 mindful minutes, and learn more about mindfulness here.
- Setting goals. Having realistic goals keeps us focused and working toward something we care about. It can also help us avoid falling into negative, unhealthy habits.
- Asking for help whenever you need it. We don’t have to go through life managing everything alone. Your friends and family also get a sense of purpose when you ask them for help.
Self-care consists of activities that you do to ensure your physical fitness and mental wellness. When we focus inward and take care of our own needs, we’re better equipped to solve problems, control our emotions, care for others, and navigate life effectively.