Friends come and go in our military lives due to frequent moves. So is it really worth connecting when we know the goodbyeis inevitable? Guest blogger Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen, explains why investing in new friendships is important to our overall wellbeing.
I hear from a lot of people that they simply feel like making friends cannot be a priority in their lives right now. Many mistakenly think that friendship is the thing to cut when their lives get busy, express feeling guilty for asking their partners to watch the kids so they can go spend time with a friend, or conclude that since friendships are not happening naturally in their lives that they somehow just need to learn to live without a circle of friends. Maybe you’ve been there before? Maybe you’re there now?
You know the risks. You know the difficulty. You know the challenges. You know the excuses to say no and give up. You know how weary you feel. Give me a moment to remind you what you’re investing in!
Energy Output: The Investment in Friendships Can Be Exhausting
It’s a paradox that the actions that take energy also tend to reward us with the most energy. I mean, the very act of going to the gym is tiring for the vast majority of us, but the payoff is, ironically, more energy. I’ve learned that most things in life aren’t the easiest default option, but they do tend to be worth the investment. And friendship is simply one of those things.
Energy Input: The Payoff to Friendships Can Be Exponential
Gallup research discussed in the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, shows that there are five universal, interconnected elements that together reveal your overall wellbeing. Apparently, liking what you do every day is the most significant factor to your overall health and happiness, but guess what number two is? Yep, social wellbeing, also known as “Do you like who you’re doing life with?”
Investing in friendships is worth your time. Here’s why.
Your health may be at stake. People with few social connections are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease or of catching a common cold (even though they’re arguably exposed to fewer germs!).
Proximity matters. A friend who lives within a mile will have a way more positive influence than friends across the country. This is not only true when it comes to our happiness and mood, but also on our ability to recover from strokes and surgeries.
Friendships are especially important in aging well. Social isolation is associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
You need more than one BFF! Every additional close friendship adds to your wellbeing. “Our research has found that people who have at least three or four very close friendships are healthier, have higher wellbeing, and are more engaged in their jobs,” says Tom Rath, the co-author of Wellbeing, about his research published in Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.
The more time invested, the happier you are. The data shows that to have a maximally thriving day in terms of happiness, you need six hours of daily social time! Six hours?! Apparently, regardless of personality types and other variables, those who are thriving in life are reporting an average of six hours every day of connecting, which can include talking to friends, socializing at work, being on the phone, communicating on Facebook, etc. Across the board, every hour of social connection added to your day reportedly increases your happiness almost ten percent! (Isn’t it ironic how easy it is to cancel on a friend when we’ve a bad day or skip out on socializing when we’re depressed, when in actuality, that very act of connecting will raise our spirits?)
I know it’s tiring, I know. I know it’s discouraging at times, I know.
But I also know that this is one investment that promises the biggest pay-off to your overall happiness and health.
May you be reminded that your willingness to engage, to meet new people, to initiate the next get-together, to schedule friends into your life and to foster these friendships over time is proving to raise your wellbeing! And don’t we all want that?
Originally published December 5, 2013
ABOUT SHASTA NELSON
Shasta Nelson, M.Div., a friendship expert, is a leading voice on loneliness and creating healthy relationships. She speaks across the country sharing the work that can be found in her books: Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends, and The Business of Friendship: Making the Most of the Relationships Where We Spend Most of Our Time. In addition to writing and speaking across the country, she is also a frequent contributor to the media appearing on TV shows such as The Steve Harvey Show and The Today Show, and in countless magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, and Forbes.
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