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How To Strengthen Your Relationships In 2024 (& Why You Should)

Hannah Frye
Author:
January 09, 2024
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
Stronger Together friendship
Image by FG Trade / Stocksy
January 09, 2024
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"Strong" is our word for 2024. And building strength is about so much more than spending time at the weight rack (though that's important too!). Follow along with mindbodygreen this month as we explore how to cultivate strong nutrition, strong relationships, and a strong sense of self in the new year.

Spending time with family and catching up with friends doesn't just feel good in the moment. Fostering strong relationships can pay off for overall health down the line—and there's plenty of science to back this up.

One study that analyzed data from over 300,000 individuals found that the risk of death due to lack of social connection was approximately the same as smoking 15 cigarettes1 a day or consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. A 2022 scientific review echoes the message, framing loneliness as a serious public health concern2. Social isolation has also been linked to a greater likelihood of health conditions like heart disease, dementia, and stroke3, according to the CDC. 

The thing is, hustle culture and faux connections from digital media have allowed social connections to take a back seat in our society—but experts agree, we really should be putting them at the forefront. 

Why social connections are so important

"Meaningful, supportive relationships seem to be woven into our physiology for self-preservation," says therapist, author, and co-founder of mental health practice Viva, Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC.

"For many of us, these connections remind us that we're not existentially alone in the universe (which can feel overwhelming and depressing), and more practically, they offer us connections to enjoy life with or remind us that love and care exist in many forms," he adds. 

Staying connected means staying healthy.

Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC

Having strong connections can even increase our likelihood of achieving various goals4, such as eating more whole foods or working out5 more often. In short, they provide us with the support we need to make healthier choices.

Given that the desire for connection is built into the human experience, it's easy to assume close friendships come naturally to everyone. But, with all of the distractions and interruptions around today, building and maintaining relationships does take some work. 

Just as you'd put effort into training your biceps in order to lift more weight, you'll have to dedicate some time and energy to fostering stronger relationships.

Practices for strengthening your relationships this year

Here are some actionable ways to start tending to, and strengthening, your relationships today:

  1. Take inventory: Before you send off 50 text messages to catch up with everyone in your contact list, take some time to reflect. What relationships in your life need more attention? Which ones are going well? Do any conflicts need to be resolved for a relationship to advance? Questions like these will help you determine who to reach out to first.
  2. Reach out: The first move? Reaching out. You can either dive into making IRL plans or start a light conversation via text or phone to catch up.
  3. Make plans: If you're already connected with a friend or family member, try to make a concrete plan in the near future. You can opt to invite your friend or family member to a group activity or make one-on-one plans from the get-go.
  4. Keep it casual: Not sure you're ready to make plans or have a formal conversation with someone? Keep it light by using social media to bridge the connection gap gently. "This is a lower lift when you're trying to re-establish constancy in the relationship but sharing memes or jokes to help break the ice can make room for more consistent, meaningful contact moving forward," Caraballo says. 

Your "stronger together" plan

Set a strong base

  • Break the ice (whether it's thin or thick) by reaching out to someone you haven't seen in a while but have been thinking about
  • Make a plan with one friend you wish to see more
  • Call a family member you haven't talked to in a while
  • Practice being more vulnerable in conversations using these tips

The level-up

  • Go analog and write a letter to someone you love
  • Bring relationships together by planning a group activity
  • Master the art of hosting and invite over some new and old friends

You know your relationships better than anyone, so find a way to start deepening the connection that makes sense for you. Whether it's a family member, friend, or your partner, expressing interest in strengthening your relationships is a vulnerable, but worthwhile, step to take for your mental, social, and physical well-being.

After all, Caraballo reminds you, "Staying connected means staying healthy."

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