Between work, extra-curricular activities and household chores, we’re spending less time together with other people. This includes the breakfast, lunch and dinner table.

Last year, a survey from Dalhousie University found that two out of three Canadians eat alone most of the time, missing out on the benefits that come with the simple act of sharing a meal.

Yet research conducted by President’s Choice shows that when families eat together, children grow up happier and healthier and teens build stronger relationships with their parents. Additionally, people who eat together see each other as equals and connect with one another. But all benefits are lost when we opt for lunch at our desk rather than shared with friends, family or colleagues.

“If we look back at history, or even the progression of our own lives, it becomes clear that eating is a behaviour that is learned,” explains Dr. Karyn Gordon, a family and relationship expert. “The good news is that just as eating alone is a learned behaviour, we can also re-teach ourselves the behaviour of eat together.”

Gordon recommends considering the following tips for getting back into not dining solo:

Practice. Don’t be nervous —the more you eat with others, the more comfortable you will become.

Presence. Be present during those moments by removing distractions like phones, and engaging with those around you. You’ll be surprised by the connections you make.

Plan. Schedule mealtimes together with family and friends and you’ll be more likely to follow through.

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