When was the last time you sat down together with your family, with your spouse, or with a friend, over a hot cooked meal? Your answer can say a lot about you, and even more about the health of your relationships.

Sadly, in our culture, these communal “breaking-of-bread” experiences are rapidly diminishing, and I don’t think it’s for the better. Nowadays, with drive-thrus, food courts, and microwaves, we can more easily give up something so modest, so humble, so available, that we never even realize its worth.

The truth is, the act of supping together is integral to shaping, defining, and cementing our relationships. It’s a time where we share experiences, transmit wisdom, express values, embed expectations, confess faults, conspire dreams, forgive hurts, and repair damages. A meal together provides a fortress, a safe-zone, against the pressures and judgments we face every day, where our guards can come down and we enter the refreshing atmosphere of casual conversation. Indeed, a shared meal is the apex of fellowship and companionship. (In fact, the ancient translation of the word “companion” literally means “one who breaks bread with you.”)

Furthermore, extensive studies have shown that the more frequently you eat together – with family or with friends – the more likely you are to be emotionally stable, healthy, and cohesively connected to those you eat with. TIME magazine also reiterates this truth in regards to children: “The more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.”

It almost goes without saying, the benefits of sharing meals regularly with the ones you love or care about just stack up. So, if you’re the type that never seems to make the time for a “dinner for two” (or three, four, or however many), then my word to you today is this: Stop it! Don’t separate yourself any longer – it’s a disservice to yourself and to others. Get connected! Invite a friend to lunch. Have a couple over to your home for dinner. Schedule a family meal time that you can commit to on a daily basis. You will reap great rewards, I guarantee!