By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

Well Be Wisdom

Do you want to have a happy and healthy new year? If so, there is some new information to guide you. In a recent TED talk, Dr. Robert Waldinger reviewed data from the Harvard Study of Adult Development. This project began in 1935 and has followed a cohort of men for two generations. Waldinger and colleagues observed that the strongest correlate with being happy and healthy was the quality of relationships with others. When we consider the impact of our social isolation during the past three years, it feels even easier to embrace this finding.

In the first week of the New Year, Jancee Dunn, writing for the New York Times Well e-newsletter, offered a series of seven actions to promote more and better personal relationships. Her seven items were as follows:

1. Take stock of your relationships. Does the number and quality of your personal relationships feel right? Do you feel confident that there is someone you could call for help in an emergency? When did you last express gratitude to someone important to you? How much time do you spend in contact with your best friend? Are you satisfied with your personal connections at work?

As a result of my reflections, I reached out last week to two friends that I had not seen in a while to say thanks for important things they had done for me in the past. I was pleasantly surprised by their positive responses. We have plans to connect before the end of the month. This made me think about how little time I have spent planning for relationships relative to all the other aspects of my life. I hope to shift that balance a bit in 2023.

2. Try an 8-minute phone call with a friend you have not connected with lately. Almost anyone can squeeze out 8 minutes. Reach out with a commitment to be firm on the time limit.

3. Chat up someone you don’t know. Strike up a conversation at the grocery store, in the elevator, at the airport, or at a social gathering you attend.

4. Thank someone special. As you compose your message think about what you would say if you were writing their eulogy.

5. Get closer to a work colleague. One way to start of is by telling them what you admire about them.

6. Put a social plan on your calendar. Maybe you’ve been hearing a lot about pickleball or have always wanted to take up knitting. Put a date on the calendar and join a group focused on something that interests you.

7. Whatever you decide to do, keep it going! The more suggestions we try, the happier we can be in 2023.

January 13, 2022