Mind & Body

Get Closer

12 easy ways to feel more connected to all the people In your life—from your spouse and kids to the stranger you meet at the grocery store.
Get Closer
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The research is clear: healthy relationships lead to good health. it’s that simple.“Over and over, studies show that having close ties with friends, siblings and partners not only makes us feel good, but also boosts our confidence, reduces our chances of depression and can even help us live longer,” says Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., professor of sociology at Yale University and co-author of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (Back Bay Books). in other words, it takes a village to raise … you.

To boost your buddy system, we polled the experts and collected a dozen tips to help fortify your friendships, enhance your romantic connections, strengthen your bond with your mom and more.

1} Kiss for longer than it takes to sneeze In the good old days, you and your love would make out for hours. Now, there’s a good chance you greet your partner with a peck—or kiss your kids or dog first! “Kissing is a barometer of passion,” says NYC-based acupuncturist Jill Blakeway, L.Ac., author of Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido (Workman). “When passion takes a backseat, relationships lose their vibrancy.” Blakeway recommends smooching for longer than it takes to sneeze, which gives you enough time to be fully present in the moment, increasing intimacy and connection. A sweet side effect: Research shows couples who kiss more have lower cholesterol levels.

2} Spread some love with a plucky post If your brother’s roommate’s girlfriend is having an awesome day, you’re gonna feel groovy, too: A University of California, San Diego study showed that happiness can spread among friends or even acquaintances on social networks up to three degrees. (Every cheery friend ups your happiness odds by 9 percent, while a sad pal drops it by 7 percent.) At play is a phenomenon called emotional contagion—the tendency of humans to copy the emotions of those to whom they are connected. “Our mental health depends on the mental health of those around us,” Christakis says. “It’s a bummer to be surrounded by depressed people.” Don’t forget to show those pearlies in your profile pic: People who smile on Facebook are also generally more likely to be friends with other smilers.

3} Babysit for an afternoon Sure, you might get spit-up on your shirt or find a half-eaten chicken nugget in your purse, but spending some quality time with kids can impact your various grown-up relationships. “Children have Ph.D.s in play, and their lack of inhibition is contagious,” says  Judith Orloff, M.D., an integrative psychiatrist and author of Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear into Vibrance, Strength, and Love (Three Rivers Press). “It makes you more easygoing and appreciative of the little things in life,” and you can then carry that relaxed attitude and flexibility into your romance, friendships and family interactions. Orloff notes it does need to be a child you feel positively about, so invite your favorite niece over for an afternoon tea party. You could also volunteer for a kid-friendly cause or just hang out at a park and watch some toddlers squeal with delight as they swing and slide.