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5 Steps to a healthy social life

Kristin Chessman is a freelance writer, editor and mom from Southern California with a passion for travel, fashion, Disney, the beach, Italian food and all-things celebrity. Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinChessman.

Everybody needs somebody

Did you know that your social life can impact your health? According to experts, maintaining close friendships can actually help you live longer. Read on to find out how you can experience a more fulfilling, healthy social life.

Women friends out to lunch

According to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, research shows that having good friends can help you fight disease and depression, and encourage healthy habits.


Here are some of her top tips for finding and keeping friends for a lifetime:

1Open yourself up to new relationships

When we were younger, making new friends was as easy as sharing a Twinkie at lunch but, as life progresses, we experience fewer opportunities for meeting new people. Lombardo suggests increasing your chances of starting new friendships by joining a group or organization you're passionate about, volunteering for a cause you believe in, or taking an interesting class.

2Prioritize your friendships

You have a ton on your plate: from shuttling the kids to activities to succeeding in the workplace, life's a balancing act. Lombardo stresses the importance of making friends a priority in your life, "There are countless benefits to having good friends in your life. They help you hit the 'reset' button on your stress level. A fun dinner with friends can help you feel less stressed and give you more energy to tackle the other to-dos."

3Be a good friend

It's as simple as treating others as we want to be treated. If you want to build strong friendships, you need to learn how to be a good friend first. "Having good relationships requires both giving and taking," Lombardo says. Whether that means promptly returning a phone call or an e-mail, or taking the time to thank your friend for a birthday gift, friendship is a two-way street.

4Be assertive

It's important to keep open communication with your social support group and be vocal about your needs. For example, Lombardo says that if your children are upset that you're spending time with your girlfriends, explain that your special time with friends helps you be a better mommy. "Don't expect that they can read your mind, and be empathetic," Lombardo says. Don't feel guilty about making more time for yourself, you've earned it!

5Re-evaluate your social network

Does your social group leave you feeling inadequate and stressed? Then it may be time to re-evalute your friendships. "The purpose of a loving social support network is to increase your happiness and minimize your stress levels, not to send your anxiety through the roof or to overwhelm you with obligations," Lombardo explains. Ditch the negative energy and surround yourself with positive, caring friends who bring out the best in you.

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