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Solid friendships are good for you – right up there with eating your vegetables. But not everyone finds it easy to feel part of the community, so once you’ve got your tribe sorted, why not reach out and help others forge connections, too?

Want to know a surefire way to gain meaningful friendships? Ask questions. Be a listener. A story is the shortest distance between two people and everyone has one to tell – even those who struggle with socialising. Be interested in everyone. Did an acquaintance go on a trip recently? What was the food like? Do they prefer solo travel or groups? Curiosity will lead to connections you may not have expected.

If someone is feeling discouraged, help them feel less negative using your own attitude as an example. People are generally drawn to positive energy, and by focusing on what’s right instead of what’s wrong, you’ll be set up to grab every new opportunity in your path – and you can bring reluctant would-be friends into the mix. Find at least five things to be grateful for every day and connections with others will abound.

Sure, there’s a reason we’re drawn to people similar to ourselves. After all, it’s pretty easy to relate to someone who shares the same interests and outlook. But there’s a lot to be said for mixing it up. Get to know a diverse group of people – in age, background, personality and work – and your life will be enriched by it. It can be as simple as inviting someone from your evening Italian class over for a Lipton Ice Tea on the porch. Even better if it’s someone you sense could use a friend.

Why not organise an event in your area? If you’ve sussed that a few of your neighbours like a certain kind of music, ask a local bar if you can put on a night with a couple of live bands. Then invite everybody, including the awkward guy who can barely muster a hello in the lift. Give him a tall Lipton Ice Tea and some tunes and he’ll be your best buddy before you know it.

If you’re a fan of brunch or picnics, next time make it more interesting and ask each person to bring someone you’ve never met. The more the merrier, right? It could be anyone – a family member, a work colleague or a neighbour. Just don’t forget the Lipton Ice Tea. Or, try an ‘open house’, where guests can drop by when they fancy over a few hours. This approach could feel less intimidating for shy newbies.

Making friends in unexpected ways is infectious – let’s get as many people doing it as possible. If you’ve figured out how to make interesting new mates, chances are your friends and family will take notice pretty quickly. Introduce them all to each other. Be an ambassador for opening up the circle. Pretty soon they’ll go out and do the same.

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316.