Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with three people I adore. We had great conversation. Great laughs. And great views of the sun on the countryside. For about seven hours.
That’s a lot of time. But instead of feeling arduous or draining, the time flew by. At the end of all that time together, I felt refreshed. I felt restored. I just plain felt better.
Such is the power of friendship.
Plenty of research proves that social support can ward of depression and increase optimism and resilience – all good for our overall well-being. But the healthy and supportive relationships also help us pursue our goals and even make healthier choices.
Now, scientists say, friendships can even inoculate us against the common cold.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who receive more hugs are less likely to get sick. Hugs were a way to gauge social support. People who received a lot of hugs, have more social support since we usually aren’t (or better not be) grabbing hold of complete strangers. More hugs equal more social support. More social support means less stress and that means we are less susceptible to infection and colds, according to researchers.
It’s clear solid relationships are an essential part, not only of a fun life, but a healthy one.
Yet the world changes at such a fast pace, it can be hard to maintain those connections. People move, divorce, change jobs, and relationships fall away. We also tend to communicate more via technology than keeping up the face-to-face interactions that buoy us. So, it’s time we work harder to care for the friendships we have.
And if you are missing those kind of rock-solid relationships, here are three ways to get back out there again and start building new friendships.
It takes a little energy and effort, but better health and well-being are the big pay-offs.
Three Ways to Meet New Friends
Move toward your talents and interests. Are you a good tennis player? Sign up for a league. Do you like to write? Join a local writer’s group or put author readings on your calendar. Are you good at organizing? Volunteer for a local group that does work you admire. When you contribute your gifts to the world, you often run into others that share those talents. This is a good foundation for friendship. It’s easier to start talking when you have something in common.
Notice the people along the way. Engage in life. Participate. Play. Have fun. Do the activities you enjoy – but notice others along the way. Keep your head up. Say “hello.” Be friendly, but patient. Friendships don’t start overnight. Nor will you want to hang out with everyone you meet. But when you are having fun, you exude positive energy and you are much more likely to encounter great people, and potential friends. When you do, when you end up chatting, pay attention to what they are sharing, show interest. Next time you two run into each other, this gives you a natural entry point, something to ask about, if it feels appropriate.
Be authentic. Don’t blow smoke. You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of good, loving relationships so be yourself. You won’t connect with everyone you meet – nor would you want to. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you – or them. So don’t blame or beat yourself up. Just be true, open, and do the things you enjoy and your true nature will shine through. That will be enough to build friendships that matter.