Happiness and Social Connection

What makes a good life? This age-old question has many facets depending on who you ask. For some, happiness and joy come from having a successful career. For others, it means having financial wealth and security. And for some, it means having loving family and friends. According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest running study of 75 years, led by psychiatrist Dr. Robert Waldinger, the answer to having a good life is about having good relationships.
He posits three life lessons from his ongoing research:

  • Social connections are really good for us and loneliness kills
  • The quality of your close relationships matter more than quantity
  • Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains

Take a look at Dr. Waldinger’s Ted Talk: Lessons from the longest study on happiness.
Strategies to enhance social connections
Increasing social connections involves intentional efforts to engage with others, build relationships, and foster a sense of community.
Be Open and Approachable:

  • Approach social situations with an open and positive attitude.
  • Smile, make eye contact, and use open body language to signal approachability.
Initiate Conversations:
  • Take the initiative to start conversations with people around you.
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage others to share more about themselves.
Join Clubs or Groups:
  • Identify clubs, organizations, or interest groups related to your hobbies or passions.
  • Participate in group activities to meet like-minded individuals.
Attend Social Events:
  • Attend social gatherings, community events, or local meet-ups.
  • Events centered around common interests provide excellent opportunities to connect with others.
  • Volunteer for local charities or community organizations.
  • Working alongside others for a shared cause creates a sense of community and shared purpose.
Take Classes or Workshops:
  • Enroll in classes or workshops that align with your interests.
  • Learning something new with others can be a great way to bond.
Utilize Social Media:
  • Connect with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances on social media platforms.
  • Join online communities related to your interests.
Attend Networking Events:
  • Attend professional networking events or industry conferences.
  • Networking can lead to both personal and career-related connections.
Be a Good Listener:
  • Actively listen when others are speaking.
  • Show genuine interest in what people have to say.
Invite Others:
  • Take the initiative to invite people to social activities or events.
  • Hosting gatherings at your home or suggesting group outings can strengthen connections.
Participate in Team Sports:
  • Joining a sports team or recreational league provides opportunities for both socializing and physical activity.
Attend Religious or Spiritual Gatherings:
  • If you have religious or spiritual affiliations, attend services or group activities.
  • These settings often offer a sense of community and shared values.
Practice Small Talk:
  • Develop the skill of engaging in casual conversations.
  • Starting with small talk can lead to deeper connections over time.
Be Genuine and Authentic:
  • Be yourself and allow others to see the real you.
  • Authenticity fosters genuine connections.

Remember, building social connections is a gradual process, and it's essential to be patient and persistent. Building meaningful relationships takes time and effort, but the benefits for your overall well-being are well worth it.
Here’s to happy, healthy, and meaningful connections with each other for 2024!
Dr. Torna Li is a CALTCM Wellness Committee member and the Clinical Director for CHE Behavioral Health Services. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and toddler. Most of her social interactions involve food and she would love to share a good meal with you if you’re ever in the area.

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