If you’re feeling motivated and inspired to become happier, this is your day! Today I’m sharing the No. 1 greatest predictor of happiness and some small actions you can take to instantly feel better.

So, what is it? Relationships: the experience of feeling close and connected to others!

Here’s something to consider: our connections with others aren’t just predictive of our happiness; they also influence our mental and physical health.

When it comes to physical health, studies have shown that a lack of connection is as predictive of how long you will live as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking. Yikes! On the flip side, a feeling of strong connection strengthens the immune system, helps one recover from disease faster, and leads to a 50% increased chance of a longer life.

When it comes to mental health, studies have shown that a lack of connection can lead to antisocial behavior (this leads to further isolation), anxiety, and depression. Let’s flip this around too. People with stronger connections have lower anxiety, higher self-esteem, are more empathetic, and the list goes on.

I must point out that when I say relationships influence our happiness, I’m not saying you need to go out and make 1,000 friends. The benefits of relationships don’t come from how many friends you have- they have more to do with your subjective feeling of connection with others. Have you ever heard the saying “feeling lonely in a crowd”?

With all of this social distancing, it’s no wonder that so many of us have been struggling. I’m here to remind you, we can increase connections with others while distancing; we just have to get creative. Just remember, you actually have to do these things to experience the benefits. Think of it like building muscle; you can’t lift weights once and expect to look like The Rock!

1. Thank someone for something: Think of one person a day and write them a short positive email, text, or letter praising them or thanking them for something. You will feel great for sending that message, and often times that person will write back praising you-bonus!

2. Make time for people: Call a friend or family member to check-in. It can be someone that you haven’t talk to in a while. Just ask them how they are doing. Alternatively, you could arrange a zoom lunch meeting or cocktail hour with your friends.

3. Be kind to people (small actions add up): There are many ways you can do this. Some examples include 1) be extra kind for 15 minutes a day; 2) Next time you are at the store- buy a flower(s) and give it to a stranger (I promise- you’ll love their reaction), and 3) If you don’t always do the dishes, or laundry, or some household chore- do it without being asked!

Try doing one of these for 30 days; you’ll feel better. I promise.

You can find more ways to increase your connections by joining the Happiness Accountability Club on Facebook.

Tiffany Determan is a resident of Chisago County.

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