You have hundreds of connections on LinkedIn and even more friends on Facebook. You like their photos on Instagram and send frequent Snapchat selfies. But when was the last time you talked to any of them face-to-face? Thought so. And that lack of genuine bonding could be doing more harm than you think.
"While electronic communication is a great blessing of our age, it has also jeopardized the power of human connection by taking away personal touch and intimate involvement," says Edward Hallowell, M.D., founder of the Hallowell Centers and author of Connect: 12 Vital Ties That Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Life, and Deepen Your Soul. This disconnectedness has taken a serious toll on our health and wellbeing. Having weak social relationships is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, more harmful than being inactive, and twice as dangerous as obesity, according to a Brigham Young University review. People with poor connections also had a 50 percent greater risk of death after seven and a half years. Beyond these major maladies, those with limited social interaction report a general feeling of lassitude that permeates their lives. "You still get through the day, but you're thinking, 'Is this all there is?'" Hallowell says.
Despite your busy schedule, you do have time to strengthen your relationships and enrich your life all-around—and what better time than the New Year? "Recommit to fostering emotional connections and face-to-face communication," Hallowell says. With these simple steps, you'll not only reap a stronger social network, you just might have a little more fun too.