5 Ways to Happiness: Build Meaningful Relationships

, Posted: Wed, November 20 2013 at 7:00 PM, Updated: Fri, November 22 2013 at 6:20 PM

We've come to day three in our special week-long series 5 Ways to Happiness.

It's no surprise, it turns out the relationships you build in your life can have a huge impact on your joy and happiness.

Hobbies Can Lead to Meaningful Relationships

Over at the Rocky Tonk Grill and Saloon in Medford, on any given Tuesday night you'll find lots of people on the dance floor, line dancing in their cowboy boots. Part of the crowd, Julie Boekenoogen and Julie Maudlin.

"We're besties, we hang out," they both laughed.

"And we're the same name so it's even better [...] Julie and Julie, Julie 1 and I'm Julie 2. She was here first," Maudlin pointed out with a smile.

They and others who come out to line dance have cultivated meaningful and important relationships.

Line Dancing Leading to Lifelong Friendships

"I can't believe the support I have. The friendships here are amazing.  Especially my girls both moved out of state, I don't have family here, so this has kind of been my family, these people here. It's a lot of joy, it brings me a lot of joy," said Boekenoogen.

"It's lifelong friendships that I wouldn't have found if I hadn't come here. It's like a family," added Maudlin.

Ways to Happiness

We've already isolated step one to happiness where you choose to be happy, and identify things you love or are good at and do them more often.

For the cowboys and cowgirls at the Rocky Tonk, it's line dancing.

The second way to be happier, changing the way you look at situations that arise in life and seeing the positive side.

Now, it's time for tip number three. You may have already guessed. Building meaningful relationships could be a pathway to happiness.

"I think we are wired to be social creatures to cooperate with each other, to work together, to collaborate. And in that sense, that's a big sense of what contributes to our happiness," said Doug Smith, our happiness expert and Associate Professor of Psychology over at Southern Oregon University.

Some experts say the individualistic nature of our society has lead to fewer social connections and more depression.

The fix?  Having either romantic relationships or friendships, so long as they're healthy, which can result in long lasting happiness.

"A thing like a relationship has so many different aspects to it that you don't adapt to any one of them," began Cody Christopherson, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at SOU.

"It might also improve your feeling of social support, it might also improve the amount of fun activities," he continued.

For Julie and Julie, besides being a great way to get fit while having fun, line dancing has allowed them to meet people they might never have met.

"I've made friends that I'll probably have for the rest of my life," said Maudlin.

"For me it's been a life saver. It's people that I would invite to my grandchild's birthday, it's people I would go on vacation with."

"A lot of us have gone through some trials in life when it comes to families and relationship and stuff and we've kind of been there for each other," Boekenoogen said.

Line dancing, for both Julies and many others has become a way to make lasting friendships. Many of the people who go have found something they too love to do, do it often and at the same time are developing meaningful relationships...and they're happier because of it.

"I come here and I get my hugs," said Maudlin.
Coming up on day four in this week's series, 5 Ways to Happiness, we'll give you a fourth tip on how to increase your happiness. Here's a hint, it involves what people call an "attitude of gratitude."

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