We all know that in chemistry, a bond is formed when two atoms are attracted to each other due to a redistribution of their outer electrons. But let’s be honest: there’s no exact science to strengthening bonds between actual, real people.
Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t have science on our side.
Through our partnership with Johnson & Johnson, we present you with 10 scientifically-proven (but simple!) things you can do to care and love for your loved ones.
1. Be Kind
Studies show that performing acts of kindness releases the hormone oxytocin (aka, you’ll feel awesome). So being kind in general—like bringing home dessert or doing the dishes without being asked—won’t just benefit your family or friends, but can help reduce blood pressure, protecting your heart as you warm the hearts of your loved ones.
2. Eat Meals Together
With everything going on in today’s world, some families are more likely to “like” the same photo of a dish on Instagram than to actually sit down and eat a meal together. Maybe it’s time to take a ‘No Filter’ approach to food: Studies show that regular family dinners can improve communication between family members, strengthen family bonds, heighten academic performance and keep kids away from smoking, alcohol and drugs.
3. Focus On Experiences, Not Things
Research finds that people who have heightened feelings of interpersonal security (a sense of being loved and accepted by others) place a lower monetary value on their own possessions than people who did not. By prioritizing spending time together over material items, you’ll promote protection, security and comfort to your loved ones.
4. Host A Game Night
Friendship studies have found that social connections don’t just help us survive our health problems—they also show that a lack of social connections actually cause them. Keep your friends close and your family closer by hosting a game night for an easy, carefree (and fun!) night of bonding.
5. Share A Laugh Together
You know that cat video that makes you laugh ‘til your abs hurt? Consider inviting a friend or family member to share in its hilarity. Laughter is proven to reduce stress, stimulate your immune system and bring you closer together.
6. Plan A Trip
Everyone knows that taking a vacation can make you happy, but did you know that simply planning a family trip can improve happiness, too? One study found that ‘vacation anticipation’—or the time leading up to a big trip—can boost happiness for up to eight weeks.
7. Say Thank You
Research shows that those who are grateful in their daily lives experience less stress-related health symptoms, like headaches, stomach issues, chest pain, muscle aches and appetite problems. So say ‘thank you’ to your friends and family: It’s proven to deepen existing relationships.
8. Try New Things
Experiencing something new—like riding that roller coaster or taking a pottery class—heightens awareness and activates adrenaline. These senses work together to make meaningful memories that last, which help fortify and strengthen your relationship.
9. Volunteer As A Family
The act of volunteering is scientifically proven to help people feel more socially connected, warding off loneliness and depression. Plus, there’s physical benefits like lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. Donate your time as a family, and you’ll strengthen your bond along with your wellbeing.
10. Give Compliments
Research shows that receiving a compliment has the same positive effect as receiving cash, with both generosities activating the same area in the brain called the striatum. And who doesn’t feel awesome when they are handed a fat wad of money?
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to oxytocin as oxycontin. The error has been corrected.