How to use rituals to get closer to the people you care about

By turning our get-togethers with friends into regular events, we can build the kinds of connections that will sustain us, says life coach Baya Voce.

Every weekday for the month of January, TED Ideas will publish a new post in a series called “How to Be a Better Human,” containing a helpful piece of advice from a speaker in the TED community.

With all the “must dos” (work, pets, kids, home repairs, doctors’ visits) and “should dos” (eat right, sleep enough, check in with family, exercise) in our lives, there’s often little room for anything else. But what tends to fall between the cracks is everyone who doesn’t fall into those categories — like our friends and neighbors.

Why does this matter? “People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected,” says psychiatrist Robert Waldinger — who directs the longest-running study on wellbeing and adult development at Harvard University — in his TED talk.

Instead of thinking of socializing as skippable, try to view it as an essential and energizing part of your life. Life coach and event producer Baya Vocesuggests making a ritual out of get-togethers, something she calls “a powerful tool for connection.”

Here’s how Voce and her friends do this: “For me and my girlfriends, our couches act as the metaphorical fire that we gather around. Every Monday night we throw on our leggings, we head to one of our houses, we pour some wine, we pile onto the couch, and we just talk. We’ve ritualized these nights as a time we come to connect and fill our tanks for the rest of the week.”

Two qualities make their Mondays special: repetition and intention. The friends show up for each other no matter what — week in and week out, through calm and chaos, joy and grief. “We do it during the good times, and we do it during the mundane,” says Voce. “So when the inevitable emotional storms hit, you have your ritual to go back to.”

What’s your group’s favorite thing to do together? Beer and darts, tea and scones, Friday-night potluck? There’s no need to launch a brand-new activity. “Find something you’re already doing … and do that thing over and over and over again,” says Voce. Feel free to go beyond your immediate circle and include coworkers (past or present), cousins, dog-park friends, anyone you’d like to get to know better. Commit to meeting once a week or once a month, and start building your own ritual for connection.

Watch her TEDxSaltLakeCity talk here:


Carly Alaimo is a writer and content specialist living in Atlanta, Georgia.


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