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If you knew what mattered most, would that change how you live?

Charlie Perkins looks at the power of relationships.

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Charlie Perkins.
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Close relationships with family and friends are essential for our health and well-being.

Consider those who make up our social networks: the parents at the school soccer game, the new family in the community, or that colleague in another division who always makes you smile.

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If you knew what mattered most, would that change how you live? How do you spend your time? If you knew that there was something that would help you live a longer, healthier, happier life, wouldn’t you make that a priority?

A growing number of researchers are shedding some light on the benefits of relationships and connections. Amazingly, these “weak ties” (that funny colleague, for example) can serve essential roles, such as improving physical and psychological health and defending against stress and loneliness.

Imagine a day that begins by welcoming your regular barista at the local coffee shop. Next, you get to work, run into a colleague you have not seen, and chat about your weekend. After work, you head to a yoga class where you exchange chit-chat with the woman whose hair is always a different color. Walking home afterward, you stop to chat with the guy you always see walking the pug named Max.

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None of these people play an essential role in your life, yet a day without these interactions seems a little emptier. Here are two ways to explore casual acquaintances:

  • Find ways to connect with people with whom you are casually connected. For example, ask neighbors about their plans for the weekend, compliment the grocery store cashier, ask a customer/client about their children’s soccer game, and say hello to the people you pass at the bus stop.  
  • Welcome the new person or family in your community, including those fresh to your neighborhood. Consider those from an exercise class, workplace, school, etc.   

When you display kindness, you increase dopamine in the brain, making you happier and more energized. A bonus: kindness is contagious.

About Charlie Perkins

Charlie Perkins is an author, musician, photographer, and videographer based in Rochester. The Chicago-bred Perkins attended Northwestern University concentrating on Radio, TV Broadcasting, and Interpersonal Communications. He spent 29 years at Harris Bank in Chicago and taught “Principles of Corporate Television” Columbia College in the same city. He has also spent 17 years as Unit Manager, Media Support Services for the Mayo Clinic. In a previous life, he covered the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan’s championship run, ’96-‘98 as a freelance photographer.

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