Wellbeing isn’t the result of one thing, but the combination and accumulation of many things over time. If we think of wellbeing as a bank account, any ‘healthy habit’ will lead to a surplus, whilst any ‘bad habit’ will leave to a debt and like all debts, it has to be paid back at some point.

One important driver of wellbeing is social connections.In life and work, far more can be achieved by collaborating and working with other people who align with your values. 1+1 can literally = 9!

However, whilst we’re living in a time when we’re more connected than ever before, the irony is that we’re also more isolated than ever which is having serious consequences on our wellbeing. Indeed, psychologist John Cacioppo found that extreme loneliness can increase the odds of premature death amongst old people by 14%.

But what can you do to build and enhance connections with other people? Education and work are great places to start, but in the digital age, expanding and deepening your relationships has never been easier. Here are 6 ideas that will help:

1 – Work in a supportive environment. Such a big chunk of our lives is spent in the workplace, so it is important to be around positive people that build you up, rather than make you feel unimportant and undervalued. If you find yourself in a negative environment, set an intention to change where you work, either by positively influencing the environment you’re part of, or moving to a different team or a different organisation that puts greater emphasis on their employees’ wellbeing. 

2 – Learn a new skill. Challenging yourself to learn a new skill and expand your knowledge will get your brain cells to make new connections, plus you yourself can make new connections with other learners by studying in a group.  Learning a new skill together is strangely magnetic, often leading to great friendships as you have all chosen to learn the same new skill at exactly the same point. When choosing a new skill, think broadly: fancy learning Spanish dancing?  Or how about oil painting? The sky is literally the limit.

3 – Start a meetup group via meetup.com. We all have a passion and by connecting to people who share that passion, your personal wellbeing will go up! One way to do this is to start your own meetup group. For around £18 a month, you can host your own meetup group in a place of your choosing. You’ll get to meet a whole set of like-minded people, practise your leadership skills and you can also help others, in itself a driver of wellbeing. How’s that for win-win? If you’re not ready to start your own group, take a look for groups that already exist in your area – you’ll be surprised how many different ones there are!

4 – Help others in need. Research shows that helping others is one of the key routes to happiness. You see it when disasters occur when people come together to help each other out. But what can you do on a day-to-day basis? You can volunteer to help the many charities that are trying to help make a difference. Or you can simply help your local community by knocking into an elderly neighbour to check they are ok, helping out in a soup kitchen or volunteering to take on a role in a local charity’s jumble sale fundraiser. If you have young children, you can help out in your child’s school or look after a friend’s children. Anything and everything helps and you gain a good feeling by making others’ lives a little easier.

5 – Phone a friend. What a time we are living in! We can literally text our friend living on the other side of the world and get a response in seconds. Never before has this been possible. But the downside is that we have become so accustomed to sending a quick text to people, or commenting on a facebook post, we rarely put in the energy to really connect with people. So, instead of texting, why not call a friend to say hi and to engage with them at a deeper level. It will really cement your relationship and can be truly uplifting for both of you.

6 – Smile at a stranger. You can make connections anywhere. In the street, in a shop, at the hairdresser. Try saying a few positive words at the local grocery store, even if it’s praising their apples or commenting on the weather. Any positive connection is health promoting and an opportunity to make a good impression.

Wherever you are in your life right now, connecting with other people is a big driver of wellbeing. Whatever your personality type, we all need other people to achieve our goals in life. Together we are definitely stronger, so as the new decade begins, start to make small steps to improve your wellbeing from a social perspective.