How much time do you spend with friends? Work and family take up so much of our lives that it sometimes feels impossible to make time for fun. But science says that friendship makes you happier and can even help you live longer. When longevity expert Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones — Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, asked centenarians about their secrets to long life, they said that socialization was key. It turns out that spending time with friends gives people a sense of well-being, leading to healthier, happier lives.
We all love spending time with our friends, but making and maintaining these relationships can be a lot of work. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some easy tips for strengthening your friendships:
Make time. If you’re focusing on taking care of your overall well-being, making time for friends should be a priority. Whether you’re meeting your best friend at the gym once a week or brunching with the girls one Sunday a month, setting time aside to nurture your friendships gives you something to look forward to.
Listen. Whether your friend is telling you about their horrible day or giving you advice about finding a new job, make sure you’re actively listening. Try not to interrupt them even if you get excited or suddenly think of something to add to the conversation. Thinking about what you’re going to say next while someone else is talking is normal, but it’s important to curb this habit. Your friends deserve your full attention, just like you would want if you were talking.
Remember. How special do you feel when someone remembers something about you, like your favorite Korean side dishes or that you’re allergic to shellfish? Making an effort to remember little things about your friends can go a long way. Think about how disappointed you may feel if your friends forget your birthday or they buy you tickets to a football game when you don’t even like sports. Show your friends that you care by remembering what matters most to them.
To help you keep track of details like birthdays or address, enter the information in your contacts or address book on your phone. There’s usually a section for each contact where you can add miscellaneous information. Or, you can jot notes in a notebook or journal. This may seem like overkill, but you’ll be glad later, when it’s time to buy them a present or you want to send them a thank you card.
Have fun. This may seem like a given, but oftentimes we fall into a trap of complaining and commiserating with our friends. While it’s good to get things off your chest, don’t wallow in negativity. Discuss what you’re thankful for. Enjoy pedicures or explore a botanical garden. Or even take a vacation together.
Fostering strong friendships is crucial to your overall health and well-being. The wonderful memories you make can get you through the tough times. With a little help from your friends, you may be happier and live longer.