11 ways to bond more with the people in your life

 Woman hugs her smiling friend

Humans are social by nature. Connecting with other people is what makes life rich, helps us feel safe, and lets us recognize that we’re part of something greater than ourselves. But sometimes we choose to hold back, even in our closest relationships. As a result, our world gets smaller, and we don’t live as fully as we could. Mindfulness helps us to recognize the opportunities we have to connect a bit more by listening, communicating, and allowing our hearts to open.

Really see each other. Making eye contact with someone can relieve stress and create a deeper sense of connection. It’s hard not to feel intimate and vulnerable when looking into the eyes of another person—even a stranger. Try it! It may feel funny at first, but you may soon notice a softening in your heart.

Listen with all of your senses. There’s a difference between hearing someone and really listening to someone. The next time you’re having a face-to-face conversation, notice the other person’s posture and body language. Tune into the sound of their voice, and the meaning of their words. See if it’s possible to put aside your own commentary while they’re speaking, and really give them your full attention. When you feel listened to, you feel cared about and this creates a sense of love and connection.

Reach out and touch someone. Physical contact is essential to our well-being. Touch is also one of the main ways we communicate, feel safe, and calm down. It also helps us trust one another, and convey love and compassion. Take a day to experiment with actively reaching out to your loved ones with small touches (on the hand, shoulder, knee, or arm) and see what you notice—perhaps a sense of connection or compassion.

Hug like you mean it. Very few things feel better than a good hug. Science shows that hugging can reduce blood pressure, alleviate fear, soothe anxiety, and release the “love” hormone oxytocin. Who can you hug today?

Be interested. We often think that we “know” someone so well that we can predict how they’ll behave or respond. While this may be true some of the time, it also stops us from clearly seeing the person in front of us—instead we just see our “idea” of that person. See if you can be more open, curious, and interested in the people close to you, as if you were getting to know them for the first time. You might be surprised by what you find.

Make plans and keep them. We want to show up for the people we care about, but sometimes we say “yes” to commitments that we just can’t take on. Even if our intentions were in the right place, canceling can put a strain on our relationships. Be honest with yourself, and only agree to what you can handle. Also, identify the people in your life who nourish and energize you. And then figure out how to enhance your relationships to those people to foster mutual trust, respect, and appreciation.

Communicate your needs. Most of us are guilty of at times not being clear about what we need or want from someone. The problem is that we then feel frustrated or upset when those needs aren’t met. When you can learn to identify and express your needs clearly, you naturally create greater understanding, compassion, and connection with the people in your life.

Be kind. Kindness is like a magnet. People like to be around others who are kind because they feel cared about and safe with them. It’s also contagious. When you practice kindness, not only do you feel better, but you help other people feel good, too. This just creates more opportunities for positive connections throughout the day, which, in turn, contributes to better health and well-being.

THINK before you speak. We all say or do things that we later regret. It happens. But we can make more of an effort to be thoughtful with our words and actions. Try this experiment for a week: Before speaking to someone, ask yourself: Is it True, is it Helpful, am I the best one to say it, is it Necessary, is it Kind? And see how your interactions change.

Lighten the load. Wanting to help other people is powerful way to lead a more meaningful life. Try smiling more, saying thank you, or letting someone go first in traffic. You can give money to a cause or volunteer your time. These actions will also help you feel connected to the larger community all around.

Practice “Just like me.” All humans are 99.9% the same, no matter what race, ethnicity or gender they are. If you want to experience a greater sense of connection in your life, as you go through your day and meet someone who you think is different from you, silently say to yourself, “Just like me,” and see what comes up. You may realize that each of us wants the same things: to feel cared for and understood, and to experience a sense of belonging.



This copyrighted information courtesy of Mindful.org and psychologist Elisha Goldstein.

Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. August 2019.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.