Happiness has been proven to be life-extending and plays a huge role in our sense of purpose. And our relationships play a key role in that happiness.
Friendships can take on many forms. We have old friends, new friends, social media friends, colleagues, pals from our passions and hobbies—the list goes on and on.
Seeking out new friends can improve your sense of purpose—with all kinds of unexpected rewards. Plus, “old” friendships can take on a new twist and grow even deeper with the right care and attention.
Now, if you feel your friendship skills might be a little rusty and could use some freshening up, here are some ideas for rethinking and prioritizing these important relationships.
1. Practice the art of socializing.
Practice? Yes! As years pass and we get more and more comfortable in our friendships, it’s easy to stop putting effort into meeting new people and trying new things. It’s also easy to stop putting that extra time and attention into current friendships.
Consider inviting someone you just met out for coffee or lunch. This new friendship may be just what you need. Want to try something new? Be brave and ask an old friend to come along. Maybe you want to get back into yoga, try a dance class for the first time, go out to a new restaurant, or take a day trip. These group activities will not only provide social support, but also promote healthy habits!
Now, not every opening will lead to a new deep friendship or renewal of an old one, but you’ll discover how happy it makes people feel just to be asked. You may even see you also get more invitations in return.
2. Say yes.
Speaking of extending more invitations, when someone reaches out to you, accept the invitation whenever you can. It may be more comfortable to sit it out and stay at home with your favorite show and takeout, but that’s not always what’s truly best. Research has shown new experiences can maximize happiness. Anticipating the event and planning for it can provide even more enjoyment.
3. Be a good listener.
Part of having lasting friendships is fostering them. Ask what’s going on in your friend’s life, and pay attention to what they say. Really listen; don’t spend your time thinking of what you’re going to say next. When they share details of hard times, be empathetic, but don’t give advice unless they ask for it.
Also, it’s important to be discreet. They are sharing parts of their life with you because they feel they can trust you. Don’t give them any reason not to.
4. Balance the good with the bad.
Positivity is contagious! On the other hand, ongoing insecurity, self-criticism, and nonstop complaining can be draining on a friendship. This doesn’t mean you can’t call a friend with bad news or just because you have a bad day. Quite the opposite is true. It’s important to trust them with these important moments and to let them support you.
With that, it’s also important to focus time on the positive - the good things in your life, even the learnings you had during a trying time. If you are still having trouble balancing the good with the hard, consider new topics to stretch your brain and get you out of a consistent negative space. Maybe something going on in your community, or a book or article you read recently.
5. Get curious.
When a friend shares something that you don’t fully agree with or understand, get curious. Instead of judging or jumping to your own conclusions, ask questions, and strive to learn more. People’s stories about how they came to have a particular opinion or make a certain decision can be interesting.
Giving your friends space to fully be themselves will only deepen your relationship down the road.
6. Celebrate and find gratitude.
Admire your friend’s accomplishments and successes and celebrate with them. Let them inspire you to take on new challenges and also celebrate your own victories. There’s enough success to go around for everyone.
And remember your own accomplishments don’t have to be centered on the next big life milestone. Sometimes, practicing daily gratitude and finding small things to celebrate (both with yourself and your friends) can create a huge shift in your perspective for the better!
7. Remove toxic friends from your life.
Don’t let history decide who your friends should be. Surround yourself with positive energy, positive people, and with those friends who make you feel good about yourself.
If someone is dragging you down–whether it is a friend, partner, or coworker–let them go and move on. Life is too short.
8. Don’t forget about furry friends.
Though there have been relatively few well-controlled studies, we do know that time with pets is good for the body and soul. It can lower blood pressure and help us return to a calm state after stress. Dog owners also get regular exercise walking their pets and have opportunities to socialize with other dog owners.
If you’re not able to have a pet, then consider volunteering at an animal shelter. You win…the animals win…and the shelter wins. All that positivity adds up to a happy life, fueled by a sense of purpose!
About the author:
Dwayne J. Clark is the Founder and CEO of Aegis Living, one of the most sought-after assisted living facilities in the country. He is a longevity expert and the author of four books. His latest, 30 Summers More, offers up the latest health and wellness research into longevity.