I’m guessing you’ve heard the term “self-care” before, right? And you probably associate it with a few specific images: sinking into a warm bubble bath, scribbling in a journal before bed, or maybe meditating quietly on a yoga mat. These are all accurate representations of self-care (or at least they can be), so great job—but I’m here to talk to you about a lesser known self-care strategy: spending time socializing and connecting with others.

Mental Health Benefits of Socializing

That’s right, hanging out with friends, catching up with family members, or even chatting with a stranger, can be incredibly beneficial to your health and overall wellbeing. Dr. Dana Avey— Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner, Certified Holistic Life Coach, and Distance Credentialed Counselor—explains how: “Overall, having a social network of friends with whom one can spend time is noted to have significant mental health benefits, particularly as evidenced by experiencing an improved mood, both when in the company of others but also in the aftermath of the time spent socializing. Having a positive peer group provides individuals with a balanced perspective by serving as a sounding board. It can become very easy to become isolated with one’s own thoughts and feelings and connecting with others can offer objective feedback and support.” In addition to this mood boost, spending time and connecting with others can also…

  • Inspire and motivate
  • Build self-esteem
  • Teach empathy and acceptance
  • Create a sense of valued self
  • Reinforce sense of identity
  • Increase perception of meaning
  • Decrease stress levels

And the rewards don’t stop there: “Further, a number of studies are demonstrating that individuals with positive social networks live longer, healthier lives, and when we feel better physically, we feel better mentally and emotionally, as well,” says Avey. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and socialize! If you’re more introverted and aren’t sure how, check out our tips below.

Make the Most of Your Social Time: 5 Fun Ideas

First and foremost, when you do make time for others, really tune into them and the moment. Nobody likes hanging out with the friend that’s always on their phone or daydreaming while staring out the window. “The best way to spend our time with others is by co-existing in person, at the same place and time—think the park and not Facebook Messenger,” Avey says.

Now, what if there are other things crowding your schedule and you can’t find a way to focus solely on your friend? Easy solution: combine the two; two birds, one stone. “In our busy worlds, many find addressing responsibilities take precedence over leisure time with friends, but what about combining the two? If finding the time is a barrier, it can be advantageous to coordinate necessary activities with friends. For example, some friends plan their grocery shopping together every Saturday morning, allowing for chit chat and taking care of a chore at the same time,” Avey explains. “Another convenient avenue is finding friends who enjoy the same hobby and inviting them to join. Whether the hobby is rock climbing or watching Survivor, friends can be incorporated to make it even more enjoyable than before. The general idea is to find ways to engage with others in the most organically occurring way possible, as this will ease the process on both ends and promote the likelihood of it actually coming to fruition.”

Alright, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, how should you spend this valuable time with others? This of course depends on the person(s) because we all have different interests, but the following ideas are interactive and will help ensure you spend true quality time together:

1) Craft.

    • Use this time to get creative! Do you like to paint? Draw? Build? Whatever it is, employ a friend’s help (or work on separate projects). Enjoy each other’s company and get a beautiful piece of work out of it.

2) Start a book club.
If you’re into reading, consider starting/joining a book club! This’ll allow you to spend that valuable time with yourself, as well as with others when you convene to talk all about that month’s book.

3) Cook dinner.
Even if you aren’t a great cook, making dinner with a friend can also make for a fun, quality evening. You can also save money this way, and who doesn’t love saving money?!

4) Go on a hike.
Do you like the great outdoors? If so, go on a hike. The combined benefits of spending time in nature and spending time with others will make for a day your heart will enjoy.

5) Complete a scavenger hunt.
Scavenger hunts are another great way to spend time with others and also give you the opportunity to explore or rediscover your city. Get a few people together, split up into teams, and then work together to check off all the items on the list! It’ll make for a fun day to remember.