Want to improve social habits - but don't know how?

22 insights and tips for better social relationships.

Keeping in touch doesn't have to be overwhelming.

Get motivated by the benefits of close relationships. Learn what affects social relationships. And improve your social habits with simple methods.

The importance of social relationships.

Keeping in touch takes effort. Is it worth it? Learn about the benefits of close relationships. Invest in social habits for health, happiness and longevity.


Become happier

Close connections are the source for happiness.



What makes us happy? There's always been a huge debate. Long-term studies show that fame or money doesn't matter. Instead, close relationships play a huge role.


  • Reflect what is more important for you: Being happy, rich or famous?

  • Invest in the happiness of your friends and family by taking care of your relationships and it will make you happier as well.

  • It's the meaningful and close quality relationships that make us happy not every low-effort connection.

  • If you want to be happy, make enough time for quality connections.

Dive deeper

  1. Robert Waldinger and his team studied 724 men for more than 75 years. The key result is that good relationships keep us happy and healthy.

    What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger
  2. A goal involving friends or family members or just making you more social will make you happier than something you can do alone.

    Is Social Connection the Best Path to Happiness?
    Greater Good | UC Berkely
  3. Happiness can be like the energy we use to meet new people and we recharge it by meeting our most close people.

    People Seek Out a Certain Kind of Person When They Are Happy
    The Atlantic
  4. If many in your circles are happy or depressed it affects the others. Spending time with close contacts makes all feel better including yourself.

    Happiness Is 'Infectious' In Network Of Friends: Collective - Not Just Individual - Phenomenon

Live longer

Taking care of people extends your life.



There's a lot of research suggesting that having close social relationships is one of the most important factors for longevity. Some studies show a bigger effect than obesity, alcohol, smoking, sports etc. Many people consciously practice healthy habits, but rely on their autopilot for social relationships.


  • Are you fasting, meditating, doing sports, eating healthy, limiting alcohol and smoking for health and longevity? The impact of social relationships according to the current state of science is actually more impactful. You don't have to quit any of these good habits, but they should not come at the price of friends and family.

  • Remember for your health and life expectation it's equally or perhaps even more important to have good bonds. Make enough time compared to other health-related activities.

  • You can do almost all of these good habits in a social context. No need to compromise.

Dive deeper

  1. This article gives an overview of the impact of personal relationships on longevity.

    Why Relationships Are the Secret to Healthy Aging
    Greater Good | UC Berkeley
  2. The New York Times explains why having friends is a critically important contributor to good health and longevity.

    Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health
    New York Times

Improve mental health

Social relationships influence your mental health.



The lack of social relationships is a key contributor to mental health issues like depression, anxieties and other psychological illnesses. Support from friends and family plus regular community activities increases wellbeing.


  • Learn and reflect on how social relationships influence your mental health and also of your family and friends.

  • Remember you need to have a few good bonds to avoid the problems and get benefits like wellbeing. Having many mediocre relationships doesn't help here.

  • Watch out for toxic relationships.

  • Try to be more present, listen and find people who listen to you.

  • Invest enough time for quality social connections.

  • Read more about close personal relationships and vulnerability.

Dive deeper

  1. Why Spending Time With Friends Is One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Health

    Why Spending Time With Friends Is One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Health

Learn how personal relationships work.

What influences relationships? What is important to consider? This section summarizes knowledge on personal connections. Understand others and yourself better.


Close Relationships & Vulnerability

Close relationships need vulnerability.



It's intuitive to think we need to present our best version to make and maintain social relationships. Doing the opposite by telling embarrassing stories, admitting mistakes or acknowledging problems is helpful. It makes us more human as nobody is perfect. Others can relate more. We show trust by sharing something private, which could be used to hurt us. Social Media is full of only positive content. It makes it easier for your close ones to share their worries. Only then you can help. The ability to be vulnerable to each other is a requirement for close relationships.


  • Do you share your worries with your closest people or do you keep them for yourself?

  • Do you know what worries them?

  • Consider doing an experiment like 36 questions for increasing closeness with a close person

Dive deeper

  1. There's also a text version of this video.

    Friendship & Vulnerability
    The school of life | YouTube
  2. Brené Brown explaining vulnerability and why it matters.

    The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown
  3. One woman shares how she dropped her Wonder Woman act to let herself be a little more human.

    When Being Vulnerable Is Important

Dunbar's Number

The limits of how many friends we can have.



There's the emotional, brain and time limits. The Dunbar numbers say we can have:

  • 5 super close people, meet weekly
  • 10 very close people (15 total), meet monthly
  • 35 close people (50 total), meet 3-4 months
  • 100 friends (150 total), meet 5-7 months
  • 350 acquaintances (500 total), meet random
  • 1000 with familiar face / name (1500 total), meet random

The limits vary for everyone. It's useful to be aware of the constraints. For example, having 25 close people means you have less time for less close friends. Some prefer a few very close friends and some like to be with many people. But you cannot be close to 500 people. The more people you actively keep in touch with the less time you get per person. It's common to allocate more than 60% for the first two circles.


  • Write down your closest friends and family up to around 50 people. Then try to figure out how often you like to see them. Put them in the corresponding circles.

  • If you have a lot of friends, but not so many close people, consider investing more effort into some of them. But check if these friends have time to meet more often.

  • Read this reflection exercise, if you struggle to feel how close you are with people.

Dive deeper

  1. The theory of Dunbar’s number holds that we can only really maintain about 150 connections at once. But is the rule true in today’s world of social media?

    Dunbar's number: Why we can only maintain 150 relationships
  2. Robin Dunbar on friendship in the age of the internet.

    Can the internet buy you more friends? | Robin Dunbar
  3. Watch a university lecture by Robin Dunbar.

    Robin Dunbar: The dynamics of friendship in the offline and online worlds
    Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series on Future Information Technology

Emotional Battery

How your emotional energy charges and depletes.



Did you ever feel physically exhausted after exercising? Or mentally exhausted after a difficult exam? Humans can also be emotionally exhausted. Connecting in a meaningful way requires empathy and listening. If you have a tough conversation on a sensitive topic your battery might get empty. While other interactions spark new energy in you. You may need time alone, meditation or physical exercise. Experiment to see what works for you.


  • Try to become more aware of your emotional energy level. What recovers it and what drains it?

  • We should not avoid elephants in the room or difficult conversations. Being vulnerable and having empathy is important. But everyone involved should be in the right state to do this.

  • If interactions with a person are always draining your energy, reflect if this relationship is toxic.

Dive deeper

  1. Find out how you can get more energy.

    7 Easy Ways to Recharge Your Emotional Battery
  2. Learn how to check in with people before addressing difficult topics.

    Should You Set Friendship Boundaries? Experts Analyze Those 'Emotional Capacity' Memes.
  3. Here are some practical examples of emotional intelligence.

    Wonder what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life?
  4. Tips for protecting, conserving, and replenishing your energy.

    How to Refuel When You’re Feeling Emotionally Drained
    Harvard Business Review

Methods for improving social habits.

Keep in touch easier with practical methods. Use your time efficiently to maintain meaningful connections. You don't have to write to all people every day.


Keep in touch with people

Maintain relationships by consistently and proactively reaching out.



In theory keeping in touch is simple. It's just reaching out from time to time. We meet some people automatically due to activities. But activities change and then you get out of touch. There are busy periods, where people don't have time. Afterward it's easy to forget to contact people again. Some people don't notice how much time passed and that they could reach out again. Others rely on their friends to reach out to them. They're happily responding, but aren't proactively contacting persons. People appreciate though if someone makes the effort of initiating contact. And a friendship can't work if both sides are passive. It's a good social habit to check in with everyone that matters. Good friends do this consistently and proactively.


  • If you struggle to keep in touch, use Amicu or another tool like a calendar to remind you.

  • If you don't keep in touch at least twice a year, people eventually forget you.

  • Ask genuinely how people are, what is going in their life, and how you can help.

  • You don't need social media. Keep your contact information updated and meet or call people.

Dive deeper

  1. Derek Sivers on why it's good to stay in touch.

    Stay in touch with hundreds of people.
    Derek Sivers
  2. Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life.

    Keep in touch
    Mental Health Foundation

Reconnecting after a long time

How can you break the ice?



It's a good idea to follow up again with old connections. But what if there's a break of months or even years? Ideally, you consistently keep in touch so this doesn't happen. But life can get busy and sometimes people lose track of each other.


  • Don't worry or feel bad about it. This happens to everyone. Accepting this helps.

  • There's nothing wrong with reaching out again. It simply means you still care about the person and want to know what's going on in their life. But don't expect anything. Some might have forgotten you, don't want to be close anymore or are busy with other things. There's no guarantees. However, many people are happy, if someone contacts them again after time.

  • You can start with a small message. You can acknowledge the break, show that you still care and ask how the person is doing. "Hey, I know it's been a while. But I wonder what you're up to. I'd love to catch up."

  • Another thing you can consider is sending an old photo. This brings up old memories and can help to reconnect.


How to stop feeling overwhelmed

Too many people, unread texts or notifications?



If you always add more friends and follow more people on social networks it gets busy. If you never change the notification settings you get too many. People interrupt you with messages all day. Eventually, you lose track of where you still need to reply. People feel offended and ask why you didn't reply. You feel bad for not keeping up and it gives you a constant level of stress. This is not sustainable or healthy. But you can fix it.


  • Disable as many notifications as possible. Mark messages as unread, if you didn't answer or note it down elsewhere.

  • If you're in a very busy period, communicate the reason and tell when you will have time again to catch up.

  • It's more efficient to batch reply one hour a day than checking messaging apps the whole day. Some people even install apps only for one hour, batch reply and then delete them.

  • Communicate boundaries and explain that you can't reply immediately.

  • Be aware of your time budget for socializing and the limits of how many people you can actively keep in touch with. Embrace those limits.

  • Mute very active group chats and instead organize group calls or meetups from time to time.

  • Focus on less frequent, but more meaningful followups. For example meeting or calling once a month instead of a few short messages in a chat everyday.

The good and bad of technology for your social life.

Is social media really connecting people? Are you spending more time on your phone than meeting people? Find out where apps can help and where not.


Pros and Cons of Social Media

It depends on how you use it.



Social media wants to connect you with friends. Sounds great, but it's not so easy. Social networks are making money from you seeing ads on your phone or computer. That motivates them to make you spend more time on your phone and not to meet people. Smart people work with all tricks to keep you online. The result is that more people feel addicted to their phones. It's important to realize that we are still in control. If it get's too much we can delete apps, disable notifications and limit our access. However, social media also has benefits. It can be useful to organize events, gather a community around a common topic or to communicate with a group of people. Do you want to use social media to meet people or spend time looking on ads?


  • Before social media newsfeeds, people checked in and talked to see what's going on. It expresses interest in other people. When you browse a newsfeed the step is lost. And a like or short comment isn't the same as a genuine question. Consider asking people what's going on in their lifes.

  • Social media has a positivity bias. But vulnerability matters. To support your people and receive support it should be okay to talk about issues. Ask how you can help.

  • Track your social media time and reduce it, if it's too much.

  • If you feel addicted, try deleting apps, disabling notifications and emails or limiting access to a certain time per day. Always log out on your device. Use secure two-step logins to make it a bit harder.

  • Test yourself with a social media detox for a weekend. Don't use any social media for this time and see how you feel. If this is too challenging you might be addicted.

  • Use social media for events and meetups.

Dive deeper

  1. A handful of people working at a handful of tech companies steer the thoughts of billions of people every day, says design thinker Tristan Harris.

    How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day
    YouTube | Tristan Harris
  2. What the science suggests so far about the impact of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram on your mental well-being.

    Is social media bad for you? The evidence and the unknowns

Tools for meeting new people

Find new friends by joining communities.



Maybe there's a change in your life like moving to a new place, where you don't know many. Or you feel there's space for more people in your life. It's good to keep in touch with old friends, but also meet new people. There's plenty of websites and apps to join local events, communities, meetups or to volunteer. Remember to keep in touch, when you met someone.


  • Try writing down a list of your interests, passions, hobbies and so on. What can you do socially?

  • Search for local events and groups on Meetup, Eventbrite, local community sites or social media.

  • Volunteering can be a great way to give back to society and socialize

  • Hospitality networks like Couchsurfing.com, Trustroots.org or BeWelcome have events, where expats and locals and others can meet.

  • Meet new neighbors. There's also neighborhood social networking services like Nextdoor.

Start keeping in touch now