An introverted social scientist says she uses the 5-3-1 rule to make socializing less stressful

  • Many people report feeling lonely and isolated, especially after the pandemic.

  • The 5-3-1 rule helps you reflect on the quality and quantity of your social interactions.

  • Just like drinking 8 glasses of water or walking 10,000 steps daily, it's a guideline more than a hard rule.

Loneliness is considered an epidemic, with an estimated quarter of the world feeling lonesome. Post-pandemic, some people feel more isolated than ever, whether they work fully remote or have gotten into the habit of foregoing weekend plans.

Kasley Killam, author of "The Art and Science of Connection," told Business Insider that she can relate to loneliness sneaking up on her, "as someone who's introverted and will happily stay at home by myself or with my husband."

In researching the habits of socially healthy people, she was struck by how often they reach out to others and how deep their relationships are.

Killam wanted to create a structure to make sure she was getting enough meaningful social interaction in her life. Her research inspired her to create the 5-3-1 rule, a guideline for measuring social health. "We need to be intentional about connection, just like we are with exercise and eating healthy foods," Killam said. As with skipping sleep or not moving your body enough, avoiding meaningful social interaction can snowball into adverse health consequences.

"If I get three workouts in, I know I'm going to feel super good," Killam said of physical exercise. "If I get just one in or none at all, I'm immediately going to feel the effects on my body." The same could be said for socializing.

Killam broke down the 5-3-1 rule — and what to do if you find it hard to follow.

Spend time with five different people a week

According to a 2022 Harvard Business School study, more diverse social connections were linked to higher well-being.

Killam told Business Insider that these people can include "friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors," and that it's good to prioritize a diverse range of interactions, from long walks with a best friend to brief chats with acquaintances at your gym.

To branch out of your immediate family or friend circle, you can join groups around your hobbies to meet new people or talk to more strangers.

Nurture at least three close relationships

While it's great to expand your social network, Killam stressed the importance of focusing on about three deep relationships, based on her research of socially happy people across various cultures. "We need a few people who we can reach out to for support," she said.

In the book, she said a good way to gauge who these people are is to think of who tends to be at the top of your phone messages or who you'd list as an emergency contact.

Aim for one hour of quality connection every day

The last step is to shoot for one hour of social interaction each day. "That doesn't have to be all at once," Killam said, " It could be 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there."

If you're pressed for time, you can always run an errand with a friend or hop on a short call with a parent. The only hard rule is it has to feel meaningful.

Use 5-3-1 as a rule of thumb

If you feel like you're great at talking to seven people a day but only have two very close relationships, Killam said not to worry — the 5-3-1 rule is more of a rule of thumb.

"There is no exact number that's right for any given person," she said, comparing the rule to drinking eight glasses of water a day or aiming to walk 10,000 steps daily. Depending on your social style, you might yearn for more than three close relationships or be fine with less than one hour of chatting a day sometimes.

Killam struggles the most with getting one hour of socializing a day because she works from home. "I'm guaranteed to see my husband, but not necessarily friends or other people," she said. "That anchor point has helped me be more intentional about FaceTiming with a family member or calling a friend when I go for a walk."

In the end, Killam said the goal is to help you be more aware of the relationships in your life. If you've felt lonely but haven't known how to address it, the 5-3-1 rule can help you pinpoint where to start.

Read the original article on Business Insider