When I say “social network,” I don’t mean electronic communications over an app or a website. I mean in-person, real-time experiences. Besides being a lot of fun, the process of cultivating and fostering your social network can generate benefit for everyone involved.

Your social network includes family and friends, as well as members of a shared support group, church, or other social group (a knitting circle, Zumba class, or your golf buddies). It also includes acquaintances you make each and every day. While every individual has different needs when it comes to interacting with others (depending on whether you are an introvert or extrovert), it is still important that we all have the social support we want and need.

The beautiful thing about socializing is that there are tons of opportunities to do it every day, and if you do it right (especially when you don’t feel like it), you will feel happier, more energized, and more motivated than if you isolate yourself. While it’s important to have a regular social network of loved ones, family, friends, and acquaintances, you can also derive much benefit each time you come into contact with any other human being. This can be especially powerful if you are able to share a little kindness or a smile with someone who is grumpy or sad.

Humans are social beings, and there’s no paucity of research on the benefits of social interaction. People who have close friends, belong to a support network or church, or have close ties to family are at lower risk for depression and anxiety and tend to have better health than those who claim to be an island. Here are some examples:

  • Double your weight loss.
  • Boost your brainpower.
  • Get sick less often.
  • Be happier, less lonely, and more empowered.
  • Ease stress.

Here are some of my favorite ways to interact with and nurture the people in your busy life…

Schedule “friend night” for dinner once a week. Not only will these dinners be an opportunity to increase your connection with family and friends, you’ll share a delicious meal and an enlightened way of life with your loved one. Cook something simple at home…then make your friend extra-happy by sending him or her home with leftovers.

Share your goals with your friends and love ones. It will help you remain accountable. And will give you something far more meaningful to talk about than just the weather and latest celebrity gossip.

Write thank-you notes. Think back over the past few months and list five people who did something nice for you. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture. Maybe a food server was particularly attentive. Maybe a friend called to see how you were doing. Grab a note card or head to the store and pick out five cards and write each person a thank-you note. Make the notes all about them and how much their gestures meant to you. If you don’t know someone’s address, personally hand it to that person.

Use this affirmation as a daily reminder: “I enjoy being in the presence of others. We are all unique human beings and each of us has a purpose. I appreciate the loving relationships I am surrounded with.”

Click here to buy Joel Harper’s book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.