Social connections and relationships are part of how we have been wired! We are social creatures, evidenced by the many groups, and tribes, that made up some of our ancestors. This persists today, as we tend to operate and define ourselves by our “groups.” Some group by occupation, some group by proximity, and some group to their ideals and values. Social connections are physiologically good for us. Close relationships decrease the stress hormone, cortisol and increase the “love and bonding hormone” oxytocin.
Currently, many people use social media to “stay connected” even though research has show that this actually drives disconnection. Nothing can replace face-to-face and “IRL” or In Real Life interactions. We tend to get caught up on data points through social media. “Oh, Sarah had a baby! I should congratulate her!” And you might even send her a message (complete with exploding confetti!) through the app. However, the actual connection is then missed. Several years later, when you see Sarah with her toddler, she might be miffed that you never asked to stop by and meet the baby. Life is very busy, and only gets busier. However, friendships are important for our health and well-being.
Sometimes, multi-tasking with a friend might be the best way to fit in that face time. Invite your friend over to use a guest pass at your gym, and squeeze in a game of racquetball or a friendly jog on the treadmill to replace your normal workout. Take a walk with your friend, and let your pooches socialize too. When stopping for your morning coffee, invite your friend to join you. At the very least, if you are sitting in traffic on your commute home, make use of that time to catch up with an old friend through a good old fashioned phone call – all but gone in the days of text message conversations!
This makes for a good segue into the importance of mindfulness in friendships. Mindfulness means “being present in the now.” Throughout the day, our friendships and relationships cross our minds many times, along with other fleeting or intrusive thoughts like “Did I put the rent check in the mail on time?” or “Will my daughter ever learn to clean her room?” Mindfulness is a way of gathering control over these thoughts, and being fully present with them. If Sarah keeps crossing your mind, take a moment to sit with the thought. Think about Sarah, and what the relationship means, and has meant to you. Think about why Sarah is an important friend. And then, use that fully present moment to reach out to Sarah! Even if it means just making plans for later, its a connection, and when the plans do come together, mindfulness can help enjoy the moment. Don’t focus on “Why don’t we do this more often?” and instead, put away the distractions of phones and smart watches, and truly express “I’m enjoying being here with you. It means a lot to spend time together.”
Friendship is a contagious social behavior. Being a good friend feels good, and our friends tend to want to reciprocate and be a good friend back. This contagion doesn’t just contain itself to the already established relationship, instead, it spreads. Positive relationships tends to make you more friendly, and being more friendly makes you more approachable, more positive, and more attractive to even more potential friends. If you are struggling with friendships, relationships, or being fully present within your relationships, check out our providers, and see how Therapy Hive can help!