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5 Steps to a healthy social life

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Be social, stay healthy

As we get older, it becomes harder and harder to maintain a healthy social life. But research shows going out and having a ‘girl’s night’ or nurturing old friendships is vital to our long-term mental and physical health. Feeling connected to others reduces stress and is good for the heart. Here are a few things that you can do to improve your social life.

Book Club

1. Join a book club – or any club!

Meeting new people can be intimidating, but it's much less nerve-wracking if you know you're about to meet people who share a common interest with you. So look in your local newspaper or even on Facebook for "social" or "activity" groups that interest you. You'll instantly feel engaged once you start chatting about your passion with like-minded people.

2. It's not all Sex and the City

While the idea of having a group of gal pals a la Sex and the City may seem like the norm, it's not. In fact, fewer women can say they've been friends with the same group of people since high school. Why? Because as we get older we change. Our wants, desires, likes and dislikes evolve, and so do the types of people we spend time with. So the next time you're feeling disconnected, look around you, you're probably surrounded by people with whom you've developed casual relationships. Whether it's someone from work or someone you see weekly at your book club, all it takes is an invitation for coffee or a run to deepen a bond with another person.

3. Head to happy hour

A great way to enhance your social life is to become more engaged in your work life. Your co-workers and even your boss all have lives and personalities you probably don't see while you're crammed into cubicles during the 9 to 5 grind. By going out after work or catching up with co-workers on their time, you may realize you have more in common with them than you think. And keep in mind, you do, after all, already share the fact you work together.

4. Volunteer

Volunteering is one of the best ways to learn more about your community and become more positively involved in people's lives. Whether you volunteer at a pet shelter or sign up to be a Big Sister, you'll meet tons of people who share the same passions as you do. What's more, most organizations won't ask for more than a few hours of your time each week, so you'll be able to meet like-minded people in a well-spent short period of time.

5. Learn the art of small talk

Striking up a conversation with a random stranger can seem like an incredibly daunting task, but if you hone the art of small talk you may realize it's not as awkward as you first thought. First, get over the fear that you're going to make a fool of yourself and just be yourself. Second, approach any new person you meet with a sincere smile; it will immediately put them at ease. From there, start asking the person questions about their likes or dislikes; if you know you share something in common, such as looking at the same exotic produce in the supermarket, use that as your conversational catalyst. Within minutes, you'll likely find yourself in the midst of a fun get-to-know-you discussion.

You have to be social to improve your social life and, in doing so, you'll also be bettering your health.

Healthy ways to boost your social life

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