Stay connected: A New Year’s resolution to spend more time with loved ones could boost health

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa,

Family sitting down for dinner (Pexels, Nicole Michalou)

The popular New Year’s resolution to spend more time with loved ones — whether that be romantic partners, parents, siblings, friends or others — can actually offer a variety of physical and mental health benefits.

Rosie Shrout, assistant professor of human development and family studies in the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences, studies relationships and health, with particular focus on romantic relationships and how they develop over time and connect to health. Because of the significant effect relationships can have on health throughout the life span, Shrout’s work aligns with HHS’ Developmental Health and Wellness and Healthy Lifestyles and Vital Longevity signature research areas.

Rosie Shrout

Rosie ShroutPhoto provided

For individuals who are looking for ways to spend more time with their partners, family or friends, Shrout recommends five main areas to focus on:

  • Showing love for the other person.
  • Talking about a future together.
  • Being a cheerleader for the other person.
  • Prioritizing the relationship and spending time together.
  • Having fun together doing enjoyable activities.

“A lot of people already have strong relationships, and this is a great way to draw on your strengths and stay committed to prioritizing your relationship. By doing so, these positive relationship behaviors and experiences can promote your health,” Shrout said. “Showing your love is good for the person being loved and the person giving love — it’s directly related to their health.”

Shrout noted that one of the best ways to initiate these social or family resolutions is to tell those individuals about your goal to spend more time with them and working together to find ways to do so.

“If these resolutions involve another person, you could have a conversation about the resolution and work together to set up a game plan,” Shrout explained. “Start with open communication: What do you want to do? How often do you want to do it? What are the different ways that you can do these things together?”

By taking actionable steps to spend more time with the people they love, individuals can boost their overall health, from psychological well-being to physical and behavioral improvements. Spending more time with loved ones can help decrease feelings of loneliness or isolation and reduce depressive symptoms, anxiety and stress. Likewise, feeling happier in their relationships is associated with improved biological function like lower inflammation, lower stress hormones and better cardiovascular health.

Other benefits include better sleep, lower disease risk and healthier behaviors, as engaging in more activities with loved ones can encourage behaviors such as trying exercise classes together.

However, sometimes ambitious New Year’s resolutions can be easy to break. Shrout noted that if someone finds themselves faltering in their resolution to spend more time with their loved ones, they should reach out in that moment with a text or call to let their loved ones know they are thinking of them and plan time together on their calendar.

“You might not want to schedule everything, but it can help when you have a busy life,” Shrout said. “If you have children, if you have a job, if you’re taking care of family members, we have so many things happening on a day-to-day basis that sometimes we have to schedule things we love with the people we love to fit it in.

“It’s also important to be kind to yourself and your loved ones if resolutions fall short. Be there for each other and support each other, especially if you need help getting back on track or adjusting your goals.”

The resolution to spend more time with loved ones can even be accomplished in smaller ways, Shrout advises, such as through regularly calling loved ones during the commute to and from work or class, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Asking for loved ones’ support with other resolutions can help individuals achieve their resolution of spending more time with family and friends.

“Some go-to resolutions are that people want to exercise more or eat healthier,” Shrout said. “Involve another person. Do it with someone else, whether it’s your partner or a good friend or a colleague. Having someone to support you helps you achieve those goals.”