The expression “the more, the merrier” brings an easy, carefree vibe. It’s warmly inclusive and fun, with a confidence that the details will work themselves out. I aspire to be a “more, the merrier” type, but as a pathological planner, it’s not a natural fit. With winter holidays in full swing, I have a question: Is there a way to connect with more people, while staying sane?

The Case for Inviting Everyone to Everything

The week before Thanksgiving, I read Hannah Seo’s article “The Case for Inviting Everyone to Everything.” Daunting title aside, she makes interesting points. Specifically, Seo writes,

  • When hosting dinners, parties, events, etc., research suggests you should invite as many people as feasible, for everyone’s sake. Doing so enables the host to form new and valuable connections, while strengthening guests’ social ties too.
  • Broadening the invitation means including new acquaintances, people you haven’t spoken to in a while, friends’ plus-ones, or even strangers to social events.
  • Research shows that people are consistently happier to hear from us than we anticipate, especially when the outreach is unexpected.
  • People whose regular social interactions ranged in closeness (from relatives to coworkers to strangers) reported higher life satisfaction than those with less diverse social lives.
  • Researchers link belonging to multiple social groups — like sports teams or book clubs — with higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression.

The thought of inviting strangers to dinner makes me squirm, but new neighbors and plus ones? Completely doable, and the timing couldn’t be better.

Jumpstarting Social Connections this Holiday Season

Numerous studies, including an advisory published by the U.S. Surgeon General this summer, have detailed the decline of social connections in our modern world. Whether it is due to working remotely, more frequently using our phones in public, or simply being over scheduled, it is hard to maintain broad and deep personal connections. As a result, people are worse off, both mentally and physically. Murthy writes, “Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling—it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death.”

Lacking social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to15 cigarettes a day.

Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community

The holiday season presents a natural opportunity to change the narrative. Here are three ideas for a more-the-merrier-approach to holiday activities, that won’t send planners like me into a tailspin. Rather, they may even be beneficial to our health.

  • Pick an afternoon to deliver Christmas cookies to 3-4 neighbors who you don’t typically see socially. I am using the tins from my local discount store because they are a nice size, affordable and of course, reusable.
  • Attend a concert, play, or community event that you’ve never been to, and extend the invitation to friends to do the same. My family is seeing the Beauty and the Beast at a town theatre tomorrow and I’m curious to see our sons’ reactions. Our friends’ daughter is playing a utensil. Cue Be Our Guest.
  • Host a holiday happy hour. Lately the idea of having friends over for dinner or throwing a full blown holiday party has felt stressful. Instead, we’ve been doing Sunday afternoon drinks and snacks. It has been much more low-key and doable, particularly if the headcount is up in the air.

Stretching the Comfort Zone

While I can’t say I’ll be a member of the Invite Everyone to Everything camp, this holiday season I’m deliberately trying to stretch the boundaries of my comfort zone when it comes to social activities. Whether we are extending an invitation to a new friend, organizing a group quilt, or otherwise bringing people together, the research is clear: we all benefit from social connection. And more of it is generally better.

When asked if there is an upper limit to the number of squares that can go into my group quilts, I often respond with “the more the merrier.” These words have never felt more true, for so many reasons.

How are you connecting with people this holiday season? Do you have any advice to share? I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading.


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