There’s no doubt about it. Having a strong social circle is really good for you. And while friendship seems to be celebrated now more than ever, we’re actually all feeling more isolated. Could we be searching for something a lot deeper?
A lot of us think back and remember our relationships with romantic partners as our most important times. But actually, the friendships we develop can be the defining relationships of our lives. That seems to be true now more than ever, with women forming friendships in packs around the world thanks to the introduction of #SquadGoals. And the word “friend” isn’t actually used as often anymore. Putting a proper label on our friendships is becoming more important too.
While this is great news, a lot of us find that as we navigate our way through our twenties, friendships are the first thing to suffer. Life gets hectic, we have more commitments and we just don’t have as much time. But then that also leaves us with less time for socializing. That makes us feel guilty, so we try and keep up with as many people as possible through endless email and text message threads. And while you might think you’re building a strong relationship through digital technology, it just isn’t true. You only have to scroll through your social media feeds for a few minutes before you feel the loneliness creeping in.
Loneliness is becoming a public health threat.
A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of Americans feel lonely and the impact is getting worse: loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This new public health threat has prompted a response in a lot of people. But isn’t it so difficult to define what loneliness actually means?
When you think about it, loneliness isn’t really about being alone. It’s the feeling of not being connected to other people, and we thrive on connectivity. That’s where community groups become so important, such as fitness classes or getting involved in a new hobby.
This loneliness effect and the fact that there is so much pressure on the idea of SELF-love and SELF-care – it’s no wonder we feel more isolated than ever. But it’s not just affecting us as individual people. It’s affecting society too. A good life isn’t just founded upon taking care of yourself. It’s founded upon relationships.
Start to observe your own life and habits.
It’s quite easy to see, really. You’ve had a long day at work. You’re tired. It’s so much easier to scroll through your Instagram feed rather than connect with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and get into a deep conversation. We’re all so busy and stressed all the time. So will it ever feel like the right time to try and fix a failing friendship?
The problem can be that while expectations around friendships are growing, there isn’t much advice out there as to how we actually navigate our friendships. We’re not taught how to do it, we aren’t developed with the natural skills to keep our friends close. We don’t really get the same guidance as we do for navigating our romantic relationships.
But you could also say that it’s this lack of the unknown that makes friendships so exciting. With romance, you know what you’re either getting into or not getting into. With friendships, your paths could take you anywhere.
As friendship has been pushed to the forefront of our generation, you can see why it’s having such a strengthening impact on women. It’s like a cycle, because the stronger women get from friendships, the more we want to shout about our friendships even more. It doesn’t mean it’s getting any easier. If anything, the stakes are even higher now when it comes to making and managing friendships. But there is potential for the friendships you create today to be the deepest ones you’ve ever had.
Here are some things you can do to strengthen your friendships…
1. Speak often.
A recent survey found that friends who stay in touch with each other send an average of three to four text messages per day. But they also chatted through other mediums too. It can average out however you want, but try not to leave it so long that you’re thinking, “what’s going on in her life?”
2. Talk about your feelings.
The quality of your communication is so important. Make each other laugh, provide each other with emotional support, share your private thoughts. And make sure that you dedicate even the smallest amount of time to interact with them, even if you’re really busy.
3. Be kind and generous.
If you’re generous and kind then your friendships will last longer. It sounds obvious, but it can be really difficult to remember. If a friend does something mean or says something you don’t like, that’s where you need generosity to understand why they said it, and kindness to move past it.
The friendships that don’t last are probably running low on generosity and kindness. But when they do last? Well, then you know you’ve got a solid foundation to build a friendship on.