Nurturing our relationships is not only good for our social lives, it’s good for our health as well. According to a study at Arkin Mental Health Care Center in Amsterdam, having friends can lower your dementia risk. And if sharpening your brain wasn’t enough, the effect of strong social relationships on life span is two times as strong as exercising and equivalent to quitting smoking.
However, it’s not always easy to maintain friendships. Work and outside responsibilities can get in the way — but there are easy things you can try to stay connected. Sasha Sagan, author of For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World— and daughter of astronomer and educator Carl Sagan and writer/producer of “Cosmos” and Contact, Ann Druyan — has a simple Microstep you can practice to let those around you know you care.
“When someone I care about is going through a hard time, I set recurring reminders for myself on my phone to check with them,” Sagan tells Thrive. “Sometimes we have those passing thoughts — ‘I wonder how so-and-so is holding up’ — but forget to actually write them and ask.”
Sagan says that reaching out is most important after time has passed. “When someone loses a family member, gives birth, or is diagnosed with a disease, everyone’s there to help,” she continues. “After a few weeks, people go back to their regular lives. I think this is when we really need the reminders to check in.”
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.