Today some friends and I were talking (actually, no, we were texting) about how we used to spend hours on the phone with our friends every day, and now we are reluctant to even call our friends at all, let alone spend hours talking. It is just easier to communicate through text, email, Facebook, etc.
It got me thinking about this book I recently read — Friendships Don’t Just Happen! by Shasta Nelson. I think as adults, it is so easy for us to think of ourselves as too busy to really invest in our friendships. They are probably one of the first things to go when we are working, starting families, etc. It is easy to let them fall by the wayside in our daily lives and just touch base every few months, having a conversation where we both talk about our busyness, promise to keep in touch, then go another few months before reliving the whole thing.
The book woke me up to the fact that friendships are necessary in our lives. In Nelson’s book, she quotes this from Dr. Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist who studies loneliness, “Aside from genetics, the two most important factors in longevity are exercise and a network of friends.” Nelson goes further, saying, “Add to that the myriad of medical research that shows we recover from surgeries faster, get sick less frequently, exhibit less stress, and report being happier with friends.” Do you see that? There are health benefits to having friends (and I don’t think she’s talking about how many facebook friends and twitter followers you have).
To really get the benefits that friendships offer to us – happiness, belonging, etc – we need to share meaningful things and really connect. Not just catching up on what has been keeping us so busy, but going beyond that into how those things make us feel, what our hopes and dreams are, what our fears are. That kind of vulnerability does amazing things.
Since reading the book, I’ve been a commitment to focusing on my friendships. I am no longer just thinking of them as an optional extravagance in life, but as something vital to my well being. I’m not longer thinking a few texts back and forth once a month counts. I challenge you not to settle for that anymore, either. Pick up the phone, get together, and really connect by talking about things that matter.