What makes people happiest?

Even if you’re in a rewarding relationship and have plenty of acquaintances, you can still feel lonely. Research shows that physical exercise, relaxation, and physical health are positively associated with feelings of well-being, but the variable with the strongest association of all is social support. So if you want to boost feelings of psychological well-being and happiness, have lots of friends — and take these tips to heart.

1. Spend time with your friends.  No matter how much you love someone, relying on a significant other as your sole source of friendship is a mistake. Just because you’re in a romantic relationship doesn’t mean you don’t need other friends.

2. Nurture friendships at your workplace. Many people believe you shouldn’t combine work and play, but that can be a mistake. People who have good buddies at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, and up to 96 percent more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

3. Spend time with people outside your children’s circle. If all your socializing occurs in the bleachers during baseball practice, then your life is seriously out of balance. This can severely deplete your energy, if only subconsciously.

4. Overcome shyness. If you’re so shy that you avoid making conversation with others, you’re hampering your ability to make new friends — and not having friends is detrimental to your mood, energy level, and overall health. Uncover the reasons for your shyness and seek to overcome it. 

5. Stop leaning so heavily on non-humans for company. No matter how shy or Scrooge-like you are, you need relationships with people to maintain your energy levels and stay sane. Dogs, cats, caffeine, and cigarettes just won’t cut it.

6. Get plugged in with others of similar likes. Feeling disconnected from other people is a certain recipe for anomie and low energy levels. Join a club with others who share your skills or experiences.

7. Spend quality time with your children. Instead of over-scheduling your kids with soccer practice and ballet, and running yourself ragged getting them there, sit down with your kids and enjoy them while you can. At the very least, have dinner with them as a family on a regular basis.

8. Work through relationship problems. Don’t let stressful relationships fester, especially at work. Offer feedback when asked, make your opinions clear, and work to defuse chronic dysfunctional politics.

Loneliness undermines health by altering your cardiac function and disrupting your sleep. The strength of social isolation as a risk factor is comparable to obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and possibly even smoking. The happiest people surround themselves with family and friends, don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses, lose themselves in daily activities, and forgive easily. Become one of them.

© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time™. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit www.TheProductivityPro.com to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.