If your routine feels stale, you may feel the urge to shake up your social life with new activities or friends. There’s a good reason for this goal: Social activity and relationships are just as important for good health as not smoking or staying at a healthy weight.
Here are 8 ways to step out of your comfort zone and onto the social scene:
- Reap the healthy rewards of belonging to a group or community. Studies have shown that people with strong social ties tend to have fewer stress-related health problems and a lower risk of mental illness, and they often recover faster from sickness or injury. Find a group that meets regularly to talk about things you’re interested in, like a book club, a walking group, or a service organization.
- Before you go to your first gathering, do your research. Find out about the event, location, neighborhood, or audience so you are ready to engage. Show up on time so you can meet people one-on-one rather than try to break into huddles that form later on.
- It’s tempting to drag your best friend along to a new group so you can avoid awkward small talk with others. But the best way to boost your confidence and expand your social circle is to talk to lots of new people a little at a time. It shows you are comfortable with different people, which, in turn, draws others.
- Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be brilliant, hilarious, worldly, or beautiful to succeed socially. Hold yourself to such standards and you’re sure to stay put. It’s enough to be nice, kind, and open. Most of us like to meet someone who is genuinely interested in us.
- Volunteering is a great way to be social. Find a cause that’s close to your heart and puts a smile on your face. You’ll meet people who share your passions and interests. Plus, your volunteer schedule may bring you together on a regular basis, so you’ll have a chance to get to know each other and grow your circle of friends.
- All those Facebook friends you have? Make a point to invite one per month to meet up with you or, if they are far away, have a phone call or video chat. Make your online friends less virtual and more real.
- If you plan to meet with new or old friends, make a firm date. Get it on the calendar so that it really happens (rather than, “Hey, we should get together sometime ...” which rarely happens). Name a place and time. Take all the detail guesswork out for everyone, so that it’s just about getting there, not arranging logistics.
- Ditch the drinks as you sharpen your social skills. Alcohol slows your brain down so you don’t think as fast or as clearly. Also, when you drink to be social, you may begin to think that’s the only way you can be fun and interesting.