You love your friends. You don’t know where you’d be without them. But when the pressure’s on, they often get the shaft. As a champion of friendships and the critical role they play in our lives—particularly with stress relief—I know it’s never been so important to recognize and make time for them, perhaps more than you currently are.
Some compelling research on the effects of friendship on our lives and health bears this out: Friendships don’t only make you feel happier, they actually make you healthier. Connecting with each other measurably decreases our stress which increases our longevity, boosts our immune system, and speeds up our recovery from sickness and disease. In fact, in one famous study of nurses with breast cancer, friendship was the number factor that determined their survival rate. And not doing so has consequences: Another study showed that feeling disconnected is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being a lifetime alcoholic!
I’m sure you’d love to see friends more “if you had time.” But you can’t wait for that magical day to free up. You must make time now. Here are my time-saving tips for keeping your friendships strong and vibrant—trust me, the time you spend with them pays you back tenfold.
- Book it. Make a standing appointment with your nearest and dearest, whether it’s every Tues night or the first Friday of each month. Commit to it: Buy in together for a seasonal subscription or membership to a theater, sporting event, whatever. (And if you have to reschedule, that still makes you more likely to see them than if a date never gets booked at all.)
- Piggyback it. Seeing your friends doesn’t have to be big huge, special event. Figure out what you or your friend need to get done, even if it’s an errand (picking up the kids, shopping, or making that long haul to pick up your brother’s truck), and do it together.
- Bond it. Thanks to Facebook, you already have the day-to-day updates. So use the time together to delve deeper into what’s really going on in your lives.
- Group it. Gather a group of three to six friends and do some collective connecting. That way you get the benefit of all different responses and feedback. And is there anything better than a group laugh? Don’t wait until every single person can make one date (which is next to impossible). If you make it a regular thing, they can join next time.
Shasta Nelson is a friendship expert and the author of the new book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen! She’s also the CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com, an online community that connects women to new local friends. Visit her at ShastaNelson.com.