We’re halfway through January and while I’m no expert in the science of friendship, I’ve already learned and put into practice five action plans that have helped me to nurture and appreciate my friendships more (which also bring me lots of happiness) so I thought I would share with you all.
1. Say yes more than no. I am, self-admittedly, what I dub a “bailer.” I always say I’m going to meet someone (or a group of people) out and then I end up not showing up. Usually because I don’t want to get out of my comfy yoga pants and sweatshirt. Lame excuse, I know. What usually happens after constant bailing is that I don’t get as many invites to come hang with the crowd. Then at some point I start wailing, “Nobody ever invites me out anymore! I have no friends!” and self-deprecation ensues. This is not true by any stretch of the imagination but I at least recognize I do this which is why one of the actions I’ve put into practice this month is to say yes more than no – as much and as often as possible. I’ve found so far that the more I say yes the more likely I am to get an invite to the next shenanigan (not-so-surprisingly).
2. Reach out, follow through. While saying “yes more than no” means you’ll most likely get more invites to go out, it’s important to also be the one initiating contact and suggesting friend dates – and following through with said plans. If you have a friend you’ve been meaning to grab coffee or lunch with and you keep saying, “Let’s get together soon,” then do it. Stop wasting time! Carve out some free time – even if only for an hour – and set up a time to get together, chat on the phone, or have a Skype date. If your friend doesn’t follow through or cancels at the last minute, then follow back up and reschedule. I’ve found this month that the more I reach out to my friends and follow through with get-togethers the more likely they are to want to stay in frequent contact with me. Not only has my social interaction increased drastically in just a few short weeks – thereby adding happiness and fulfillment to it – I’ve actually gotten more invites to events. It’s a give and take: say yes more than no but spend equal time initiating the contact. Not only does it enrich your friendship experience, it makes both parties feel special and loved.
3. Give gratitude and lots of love. Show your appreciation for your friends by writing them (email is okay but handwritten notes are the best!) a special note congratulating them on that new job they just got, how much you enjoyed their company at the latest get together, or to just let them know how much you love them. Doing nice gestures like sending a heart-felt card shows your appreciation for the other person. Not only do you make your friends feel loved but in turn you feel more loving. Gretchen Rubin speaks to this in her book Happier at Home.
4. Capture memories. Most people capture memories through photographs, which are great – if you actually take photos! For me, I’ve learned the importance of capturing memories with my friends and the little details of my day-to-day life through other means than picture-taking, like writing stories and keeping a one-sentence journal for example. I have a not-so-great memory and as I get older I’ve recognized the importance of writing it all down – how it’s not only my way of processing events but my way of capturing their existence as well. For me, writing is how I honor those memories and ensure they’re never lost. Whatever you do – appreciate your friendships and the small details of your life in a way that works for you. One of my greatest treasures is my one-sentence journal which is not dedicated solely to my own musings. A lot of what I write down are conversations with friends, things that happened to them, their accomplishments, good times we have together. I value these memories immensely and writing them down has become a sort of memory book for myself.
5. Have a positive, optimistic vibe. Nothing is more draining than being around a drainer! So don’t be one. You will not be happy every day of your life but don’t let it become a regular occurrence either. If you’re not happy, recognize it and make the changes you need to so that you can start being happy. Better yet – talk about it with your friends and seek out their advice. One of the greatest compliments I received recently was from lifer Monica. Two weeks ago I spent the night at her house and we stayed up all night chatting about what we were doing with our lives, where we were going, etc. The next weekend at the potluck dinner she told me my positive vibe was so infectious that night that it prompted her to join some activities in the community. She so missed being around me because my positive vibe and zest for adventure inspires her to find her own niches and passions; it gives her the ability to recognize that she wants more and provides the motivation to get there. What better way is there to nurture a friendship than to inspire each other? Best compliment ever!!
Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your own tips and ideas for nurturing friendships.