Why You Should Have Friends

Andrew Merle
3 min readApr 3, 2016


Social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness.

That is what Harvard researcher and happiness expert Shawn Achor has found after more than a dozen years studying the topic.

Social relationships are also vital to physical health. Human-behavior researcher and #1 New York Times best-selling author Tom Rath has found that social relationships help reduce stress and the risk of age-related memory loss. On the other hand, people with limited social interactions have almost twice the risk of dying from heart disease and are twice as likely to catch a cold.

Close relationships at work also lead to spikes in productivity. According to Rath, employees who have a best friend at work “are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher wellbeing, and are less likely to get injured on the job.”

Therefore, focusing on your relationships proves to be good for your career as well. Achor’s research has revealed that happiness causes success, not the other way around.

Happiness. Health. Productivity. Success. All of this can be achieved through social relationships.

But how much social interaction we should aim for in order to see these benefits?

According to Rath, the ideal amount is six hours of daily social interaction in order to have a great day. That might seem like a lot, but he also says that every hour of social time helps to reduce your chance of having a bad day. A little is good, a lot is better.

Perhaps this level of social connection is already a core part of your life if you are naturally outgoing and extroverted.

But what about if you are more of an introvert?

Achor recommends the simple act of sending a quick email every morning to thank or praise someone you know as a powerful way to boost your social connection and happiness. He says the effects of practicing this habit for 21 days in a row are profound.

Here are some more strategies to keep in mind as you get going, from Psychology Today’s 7 habits of socially connected people:

  • Focus on quality relationships over quantity
  • Prioritize face-to-face interactions over digital or phone
  • Be willing to share personal information with others and make yourself a little vulnerable
  • Focus on listening to others
  • Ask questions
  • Don’t let minor personal differences get in the way of building relationships
  • March bravely into relationships without worrying about rejection

Relationships with other people are arguably the most important thing in our lives. And in addition to all of the benefits mentioned above, relationships are fun.

So give yourself permission to get out there and have some fun with someone else.

It just might be the best use of your time.

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Andrew Merle writes about good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Read more at andrewmerle.com and follow him on Twitter.



Andrew Merle

Follow me for stories about health, fitness, and nutrition. Read more at andrewmerle.com. Contact me at andrew.merle@gmail.com