Healthy living isn’t just about your personal habits for, say, diet and activity. It’s also about your connections with other people — your social network.

DeWall, the University of Kentucky social psychologist, offers these tips for broadening your social network:

  • Look for people like you. The details of their lives don’t have to match yours, but look for a similar level of openness. “What really is important in terms of promoting relationship well-being is that you share a similar level of comfort in getting close to people,” DeWall says. For instance, he says that someone who needs a lot of reassurance might not find the best relationship with someone who’s more standoffish. “Feel people out in terms of, ‘Does this person seem like me in terms of wanting to be close to other people?'” DeWall suggests.
  • Spend time with people. “There’s this emphasis in our culture that you need to be very independent — an army of one, you can get along on your own,” DeWall says. “Most people don’t know their neighbors as much as they did 50 or 60 years ago.”
  • Build both virtual and face-to-face relationships. DeWall isn’t against having online connections to other people. “But I think long term, having all of your relationships online or virtual … would probably be something that wouldn’t be as beneficial as having a mix” of having virtual and in-person relationships.
  • If a close relationship is painful, get help. “Some of my work and some work that other people are doing suggest that … when you feel rejected by someone, that your body actually registers it as pain. So if I’m in a relationship that’s really causing me a lot of pain, then we need to do something, we need to go and seek help,” DeWall says.
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