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How reaching out to old friends can benefit your mental health and theirs

Research shows reconnecting might create positive feelings of surprise and appreciation

The importance of, friendship In adulthood.The New York Times reports that friendship in the United States has been in decline for years. .This trend was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. .Thirty years ago, just 3% of Americans said in a Gallup poll they had no close friends.In 2021, a similar online poll saw that number increase to 12%. .Just one year into the pandemic, 12% of women and 8% of men between the ages of 30 and 49 said they had lost touch with a majority of their friends

Are you thinking about reaching out to that one friend you haven’t talked to in a while? A new study shows why you might want to.

Research published by the American Psychology Association found receiving a message from an old acquaintance can create positive feelings of surprise and appreciation. Researchers conducted seven experiments to test how people feel when reaching out.

The experiments showed the person who initiated contact underestimated how much appreciation their friends felt from getting their message and how there were many positive feelings attached to reaching out to old friends. In a time when our social lives have been strained by the pandemic, reaching out might be more important now more than ever.

“Although this work is not explicitly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not lost on us that the findings offer particular relevance during a global pandemic that has separated millions of people from their social contacts for a prolonged period of time,” the study concluded. “We would thus be remiss if we did not acknowledge the implications for the millions who are now starting to reconnect or are contemplating reconnecting with both close and distant contacts as efforts to mitigate the pandemic progress.”

Maintaining relationships and a healthy social life can reduce rates of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as a higher self-esteem, according to the Better Health Channel. Additionally, socialization can improve our brain health, according to Medical News Today. When we interact with others, we improve our memory function and can prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

“I think people are often very surprised to be reached out to. I think they feel touched to be thought of and not forgotten, and I think these positive feelings of surprise further amplify how appreciative they are of simply being reached out to,” lead author of the study, Peggy Liu, Ph.D. told Healthline.

Researchers at Northwestern University previously published research on “Super Agers,” or those over the age of 80 with episodic memory as good as middle-age adults. They found the connection between their mental agility and their age was because of their strong social relationships.

However, the study does warn that some refforts to reconnect could cause negative feelings. This could be if your contact is inappropriate to the relationship, how the person might be now versus how you knew them, or if you or your friend has negative feelings toward the relationship.

Before reaching out to a friend, think about your intentions. According to the New York Times, some friendships shouldn’t be rekindled — such as those that were toxic, one-sided or unhealthy — because they could have adverse effects to your health. You should also look at why your relationship ended, if there was a reason.

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