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How maintaining "weak ties" improves mental health

Lately, my social interactions have been restricted to immediate family and a few people who are nearly strangers, such as the people who hand me my take-out food. I really miss my friends, and I'm starting to realize I need to cultivate more interaction with the few people I do see. This article explains how interactions that fall short of 'making new friends' are still valuable.

BBC Worklife: Why your ‘weak-tie’ friendships may mean more than you think, 2020-Jul-2 by Ian Leslie

Gillian Sandstrom, now a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex, [decided] to investigate the extent to which people derive happiness from weak-tie relationships. She asked a group of respondents to keep a record of all their social interactions over the course of several different days. She found that participants with larger networks of weak ties tended to be happier overall, and that on days when a participant had a greater number of casual interactions with weak ties – a local barista, a neighbor, a member of yoga class – they experienced more happiness and a greater sense of belonging.... 

“Sometimes it’s harder to talk to people we know well because those conversations come with an emotional burden,” says Sandstrom. “Weak-tie conversations are lighter and less demanding.”...

A 2016 study, for which psychologists recruited respondents from Italy and Scotland, showed that regardless of nationality or age, people who were members of groups such as sports teams or church communities enjoyed an increased sense of meaning and security. And the more groups of which they were members, the better.