It seemed like everywhere I went this weekend, people I didn’t know were really friendly, or I ran into friends. Maybe it was the gorgeous fall weather that had everyone in a good mood, but I know the friendliness of all those people made me happy.
It was not so long ago I was searching for friends. I had literally “broken up” with one close friend and my other best friend moved to a new city. For a year I had the close friendship of my fellow yoga students, but when the class ended in February, like so often happens, people fluttered away. Of course we keep in contact through Facebook, and I see some of them out and about, but the close connections bred by weekly contact faded.
Enter the Cincinnati chapter of Girls Pint Out (GPO). My husband and I had always enjoyed going to taprooms and chatting with the brewers and other patrons, so a group dedicated to meeting up at these venues seemed a natural fit. The first GPO meetup I went to was at a large event, but I was able to make contact with one of the chapter heads, Kat, who immediately put me at ease. We became fast friends, and it didn’t take long for my circle to grow. Most GPO events welcome everyone, so my husband and I had the opportunity to meet men and women who shared our passion for craft beer. We now belong to a great community that not only gifted us with friendships, but gives back to the greater community. GPO hosts many fund raising events for several charities, and are always open to our suggestion for more. It could not be a better fit for me and my husband. And it is important that I say thank you. I am so grateful these people are now in our lives.
I consider myself a very social person, so it was critical when my community started to dissolve, that I actively looked for new ones. I also knew that for me it was important that I could spend time with friends in person. It is great to keep in contact via phone, text and social media, but for me I need the face to face, in person, interaction too. The benefits of friendship are many:
Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
I have written previously on how to find your own community, so check out some of my previous blogs for ideas. Once you make those new friends, how do you keep them? Below please find a few ways, mostly, in my opinion, boiling down to “to have a friend, be a friend”.
Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you’re the one giving support, and other times you’re on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond. It’s as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends.
- Be kind. This most-basic behavior, emphasized during childhood, remains the core of successful, adult relationships. Think of friendship as an emotional bank account. Every act of kindness and every expression of gratitude are deposits into this account, while criticism and negativity draw down the account.
- Listen up. Ask what’s going on in your friends’ lives. Let the other person know you are paying close attention through eye contact, body language and occasional brief comments such as, “That sounds fun.” When friends share details of hard times or difficult experiences, be empathetic, but don’t give advice unless your friends ask for it.
- Open up. Build intimacy with your friends by opening up about yourself. Being willing to disclose personal experiences and concerns shows that your friend holds a special place in your life, and deepens your connection.
- Show that you can be trusted. Being responsible, reliable and dependable is key to forming strong friendships. Keep your engagements and arrive on time. Follow through on commitments you’ve made to your friends. When your friends share confidential information, keep it private.
- Make yourself available. Building a close friendship takes time — together. Make an effort to see new friends regularly, and to check in with them in between meet-ups. You may feel awkward the first few times you talk on the phone or get together, but this feeling is likely to pass as you get more comfortable with each other.
So to ALL my friends, past and present, I present this video which sums up my feelings quite nicely (and is a token of my love for 70’s music). THANK YOU!