Socializing isn’t just frivilous – it can actually add years to your life. Research shows that the more social connections we have, at home and at work, the stronger our immune system gets. In fact, experts say interacting with just six friends a week makes us feel less lonely and anxious, which makes us four times less likely to get sick. So what the connection between being outgoing and being healthier?

For one, researchers believe the DNA that controls how friendly we are is next to the genes that create a stronger immune system and a sturdier heart. So, people are likely to inherit all those traits at once. There’s another link between friends and a longer life: extroverted people have a larger social circle and knowing you’ve got a lot of support helps lower stress, which can mean less inflammation, less strain on your heart, and better immunity.

If you’d like to boost your health by becoming more outgoing, here’s how:

  • Set a time limit. Big gatherings can be stressful for introverts, which may make you want to skip gatherings altogether. So, pick a departure time in advance. Say, “I’ll stay 20 minutes,” or “I’ll leave by 10pm.” Experts say that when you know you only have a limited time it can actually make you more social, because knowing you have an “out” helps you relax.

  • Chat one-on-one. Don’t try to work up the courage to join groups of people who’re already talking. Instead, wander over to the people who are off by themselves. And there’s an added bonus – the more closely you focus on each person you speak with, the more likely you are to make a stronger impression.

  • Speak up early – which is great when it comes to meetings and brainstorming sessions. Whether you’re offering ideas, or simply agreeing with what somebody else said. The people who pipe up first are considered leaders. And by making a positive impression early on, it’ll make it easier for you to add even more as the discussion continues.