In June, my organization, SuperheroYou, hosted the SuperheroYou Conference. Three hundred people gathered in Los Angeles for a two-day event dedicated to unleashing their inner mental superheroes. They heard from brain experts like Dr. Mark Hyman and Bulletproof Coffee’s Dave Asprey — as did the thousands of people around the world who livestreamed the conference for free.
You might wonder, “Why would I attend a conference like that if I can just watch it online for free?” Because there’s one thing you can’t get from a livestream that you can get at a live event: the in-person connections that blossom into business relationships and lifelong friendships.
And these friendships are important for both your happiness and your health. Study after study proves the myriad benefits of a strong social network. Having close friends is linked to lower stress levels, longevity and greater happiness. Maintaining friendships is also great for your brain since socializing is one of the most complicated tasks we perform.
But having more than one thousand Facebook friends isn’t the same as having friends you can actually call when you face a traumatic event. So how can you make friendships work for you? We have a few tips:
1. Follow up.
Once you leave school, it becomes harder and harder to make friends. So when you meet a potential new connection, take action! Ask for the person’s number, get a business card — and then follow through with meeting up for coffee. You can’t make new friends if you never actually meet up.
2. Schedule it.
We get it — you’re busy. Maybe you even feel guilty about spending time with friends when you could be spending more time with your kids or spouse. But having some time to yourself will make you happier, which means you’ll be a better parent, worker and spouse. So prioritize your friends and pencil them into your schedule regularly. Maybe you could try a weekly date. That way, you won’t suddenly realize you haven’t seen so-and-so in months.
3. Stay in touch with your long-distance friends.
Most of us have friends who live farther away than we’d like. But distance doesn’t have to mean the end of friendship in the days of emails and texting. Treat your long-distance friends the same way you treat the ones who live 10 minutes away, scheduling Skype dates or creating a calendar reminder to email them every two weeks. You can also get creative. Why don’t you start a long-distance book club or send care packages when they’re having a tough time? And remember, nothing beats a visit.
4. Get out there.
We’ve already talked about the importance of following up, but you have to meet potential friends first. If you’re not meeting them at work or school, the best way to meet people is to join some kind of group. That way, you’ll have at least one common interest. We like sports teams and classes, since exercise and learning a new skill are both great for your brain.
5. Know when to break up.
In general, friendships are great for your brain. But this doesn’t hold true if one is increasing your stress levels. People change and drift apart, and once-healthy relationships can turn toxic. And as terrible as friendship breakups are, sometimes they are necessary. Learn to let go of relationships that are no longer serving you.
Family is important and so are your business relationships. But as you get older, it’s more important than ever to take care of your friendships too.
If you want more brain tips from the SuperheroYou Conference, you can watch our best talks for free at superherobrain.com/insider.