We’re all so busy, aren’t we? Seems we’re constantly rushing from here to there — gotta get home, to the office, to the kids’ soccer game, gotta take the elderly parents to all their appointments. The dog needs to go to the vet, then there are groceries, laundry, doctors, commitments, obligations, this, that, the other zillion things — and a ton of stress.
Some people tell me that they’re so busy doing all this stuff that they can’t make time for their friends. And making new friends? Forget about it. “No one makes new friends after 40,” said one woman.
Yet, who’s happiest? Research has shown that it’s people with the largest social networks. How’s your friend factor? Have all you need? All you want? Are you making time to invest in your friendships, and insure your own happiness?
If not, don’t worry. There are four things you can do right now to grow your social network.
Make contact: Email is a great tool for nurturing friendships. Though your great-grandmother might be appalled that you’re not penning brilliant little missives on tasteful monogrammed stationery using a fountain pen with blue-black ink… contact is contact. Let your friends know what you’re up to with a quick email. Or, a simple “I’m thinking of you” can brighten a day. And, if you receive a message from a friend, take the time to respond, even it’s just a few lines. Of course, a phone call is swell and a “date” is even better. Read on.
Make time: Regardless of where you work — The White House or your house — schedule something with at least one friend at least once a week. Coffee, lunch, cocktails, cow-tipping, or whatever you enjoy doing together. I sense quite a few spit-takes at that suggestion. Wipe off your computer monitor and keep reading. Sure you’re busy. Are you so busy, then, that you have no time to be happy? When you make time for a friend, you grow and nurture that relationship. Ignore the care and feeding of friendships until you need them — and they may not be there.
Be yourself: The best friends are those who accept and enjoy you despite your flaws and shortcomings. Postponing friendships until you lose weight, or have a partner, or that nasty rash clears up — is just fear talking. Real friends will love having you around, regardless. And if you have to pretend to be someone you’re not around a person or group of people? They ain’t your friends.
Remember: Memorizing birthdays and astrological signs is not required. However, please try to remember the names of your friend’s spouse, and their children. Building a friendship means you need to know your friend’s preferences — when you continually suggest meeting for a nice juicy steak to your vegan friend… you are actually telling them that they aren’t quite important enough for you to remember who they are.
And, want to know the single best thing you can do to bring some new people into your life? Volunteer for something. Yep, volunteering — whether at your job or in your community — creates bonds with others based on shared experiences and interests. The sense of pride and accomplishment plus the satisfaction of giving back are all great side benefits.
Friendships bring joy, comfort and zest to life. Relationships are a fundamental building block of happiness. Staying too busy to have friends and human connection is simply a way of denying yourself the happiness that’s your birthright.
And where’s the joy in that?