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Socialising More To Improve Your Wellbeing May Be Easier Than You Think

By May 20, 2024Blog
socialising and wellbeing

Social Ties

Positive relationships help us to be happy, healthy and live longer. They provide a source of emotional and practical support, a different perspective on life’s challenges, a reduction in loneliness, and a way to regulate our emotions from negative back to positive.

And yet, particularly as people age, creating social ties with others can feel increasingly difficult.

But what is it that stands in the way of making new social connections as we age?

We’ve all heard reasons like:

  • ‘It’s not as easy to meet people when you’re not at school/college/university’;
  • ‘It’s isolating working from home’;
  • ‘It’s lonely at the top’;
  • ‘It’s harder to trust people once you’ve been betrayed’;
  • ‘It’s hard to feel safe around people when you’ve been abused’.

And whilst I wholeheartedly agree that such circumstances pose challenges, and understandably, major challenges for survivors of abuse, challenges ultimately usher you towards your goals, happiness and life purpose if you approach them resiliently.

So whilst the challenges you face may be unnerving you or currently stopping you from expanding your social network, let’s look at some interesting research findings on how you can boost your wellbeing through social connections without jeopardising your self-worth nor sense of safety.


Strangers Or Old Friends

One seemingly easier way of expanding your social connections for greater wellbeing might be to reconnect with old friends. You already know each other, no need to search, you still have their number, or can send them a message on social media.

But does that option motivate you? After all, severing that connection might have been the right decision for your self-esteem, safety and life in general.

Well, according to new research, most people are hesitant to reconnect with old friends and they are also no more willing to reach out to an old friend than to talk to a stranger [1].

The researchers, who conducted 7 studies, also found that most expressed neutral or negative feelings at the thought of trying to reconnect with old friends.

So whether you decide to connect with old friends or make new ones, both prospects could be about as easy as each other.


Close Or Not That Close

Now if you’re worried that in order to reduce your loneliness and increase your wellbeing, the only solution might be to go out and ‘friend date’ lots of strangers with a view to making a new best friend, this next research highlights that you can have less loneliness and more happiness without the tall order of finding a new bestie.

Researchers looked at the link between social interactions and happiness in over 50,000 people from eight different countries using four different samples and found that the more diverse a person’s socialising, the better their wellbeing [2].

Interestingly, more impactful than the amount of time spent interacting with others, more impactful than the type of activity engaged in with others, the sheer relational diversity of people’s ‘social portfolios’ was strongly linked to wellbeing. The more relational diversity in people’s interactions, the greater their wellbeing.

Low relational diversity could mean, for example, you only spend time interacting with your partner, your children and yourself whereas high relational diversity could mean interacting with multiple relationship categories such as your partner, children, friends, best friend, sisters, colleagues, acquaintances, and yourself.

Furthermore, this was the case when comparing individuals own interactions over time: people’s wellbeing was greater than usual during weeks where they had greater social portfolio diversity than usual. Therefore, even though the researchers couldn’t say for sure which direction the effect flows in, their finding suggests that greater relational diversity in one’s interactions leads to greater wellbeing.

Ultimately, more important than the amount of time spent with others, and the activity engaged in with others, it is the variety of relationships you interact with that has the biggest positive link to your wellbeing.

Perhaps this is because we get different needs fulfilled by different people and because different people feed different parts of our personality and goals. One person may be great for nurturing whilst another person may be great for perspective whilst another may be great for giving you specific advice.


You’re Just Looking For People You Click With

Essentially, then, you could simply interact with various people in your life in order to boost your wellbeing, partially because they can help with the ups and downs in life, making you feel happier, calmer and more resilient.

You don’t need to make yourself super vulnerable. You don’t have to interact with strangers one-on-one on a friend date. You don’t need to reconnect with someone from your past who is in your past for a reason.

Just stretch yourself a little bit outside of your comfort zone by chatting a little more with someone at work than you ordinarily would, by interacting with nice neighbours, by joining interest-based meet-up groups, by getting involved with voluntary charity work that incorporates human-to-human connection, and so on.

And whilst you’re in those scenarios, you’re just connecting, naturally. You’re not forcing anything. You’re not setting a goal of finding a new best friend. You’re just seeking human connection with good people, frequently, for regular wellbeing boosts.

As you do, make sure that those people are good for you and are worth your time. Are they good for your self-esteem and confidence, are they good for your wellbeing, are they good for your reputation, are they good for your self-image, are they good for your short- mid- and long-range goals, and so on? In other words, are they good for you and the life you want to live, now and in the future?


Trust Yourself

Now, with a big hug, I just want to say that if you have been betrayed or abused, I understand that the above may still seem fraught with danger. In that case, stretch yourself outside your comfort zone with tinier steps and have an exit plan for the bigger steps.

For example, if you have a nice neighbour you’ve had a genuine connection with before, chat a little more with them. If you have friends, see if you can connect with more people through them. If you know of a local community event, go along knowing that you can interact as little or as much as you want, and leave whenever you want to. If you go to an interest-based meet-up group, have an exit plan prepared like an excuse you can use to leave at any given moment should you feel the need to (and let a loved one know your whereabouts so that you feel safer and thus calmer).

And pay attention to how each person makes you feel. People who are good for us make us ‘feel good’, emotionally and physically, most of the time; people who are bad for us make us ‘feel bad’, emotionally and physically, most of the time.


Variety Helps Your Wellbeing

So connect with a variety of relationship categories – partner, friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, people in the local community, friends of friends, and so on – and let them provide you with the vital benefits that only other humans can provide.

Remember that even though the interactions may be short-lived, their residual effect may be long-lasting as their words, their smile, your combined synergy, and other factors, leave you feeling renewed, empowered, and optimistic over the days, weeks and months that follow.

Be authentically you to attract the right connections, all the while paying attention to what your mind and body are telling you about each person.

And remember that just one good person in your life can make a world of difference. They can actually be a life line.



1. Aknin, L.B., & Sandstrom, G.M. (2024). People are surprisingly hesitant to reach out to old friends. Communications Psychology, 2, 34.

2. Collins, H. K., Hagerty, S. F., Quoidbach, J., Norton, M. I., & Brooks, A. W. (2022). Relational diversity in social portfolios predicts well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(43), e2120668119.