Humans are hardwired to connect. Quality friendships and feeling connected to others is correlated with well-being as well as reduced risk for physical and mental health conditions. It’s common to feel isolated in a society that prioritizes achievement, self-sufficiency, change, and individualism – nevermind the social restrictions we’re all contending with due to COVID-19! But you can access the positive benefits of friendship and deepen your connection with others just by the way you think about them.
Deepen Your Connection With Flexibility
One of my closest friends and I seize whatever opportunities to connect without judgment. Although I love evenings spent together at intimate gatherings and time spent just the two of us meeting at an art gallery, what I also love is that our connection can feel just as deep while talking for 5 minutes on the phone, while one of us is driving a child to a tennis lesson and the other is roasting salmon for dinner. Whether we see each other or not, I have that sense of flexibility to adapt to what’s going on in our lives, which is inviting and makes me feel connected. If we are too rigid in our thinking about what friendship is supposed to look like, we may be missing out on what’s right in front of us.
Stay Curious & Open To Deepen Your Connection
Another dear friend and I have mastered the art of packing every topic imaginable into a 45 minute conversation so it’s a mix of therapy, finding something we “need” at Nordstrom if we meet there, or sharing something fun going on with our teenage sons. We’re curious about each other and easily go back and forth with our sharing. Sure, sometimes we have more time, but more often we spend 45 to 60 minutes at a time together, which makes it realistic to fit into our busy schedules. Feeling connected feels easy.
Put Yourself Out There With New People
During the pandemic I joined a wonderful group of five women for a weekend of hiking. What made this so special is that I had actually met them during the pandemic which is amazing given the social limitations. All five of the women live at least 60 miles away from me, so I don’t have the opportunity to see them regularly. I debated whether to join because I was nervous I’d feel awkward, it felt risky because of the pandemic, and I was uncertain about leaving my teenagers at home alone – not that they would have gotten into trouble, thankfully, but I worried that I’d miss them! I went anyway, deciding I would just show up and be open to the experience.
Cliché as it is, getting to the top of a mountain together with sweeping views of the other peaks made me feel on top of the world. Plus, I had my tribe with me! I savor the bonding, getting to know these incredible women better, and our shared experience. I’m so glad I decided to go.
Friendships Start In Your Mind
The quality of our friendships starts with how you think about them. Good quality relationships come from how you show up for people, allowing them to be themselves, focusing on what is possible for the relationship, and allowing it to evolve. Being flexible, curious, and present will make you more available and compelling. And it takes the pressure off everyone which is more enjoyable.
Deciding what specifically you want to be doing with your friends, for example, going for walks, gathering with other friends, or traveling together, allows you to create opportunities to share and connect. Sure, sometimes your friends will want different things from you and you’ll want different things from them. Keep it fluid. Some people will not be open to your advances or their expectations may be different from yours and that’s OK. It might feel better to focus on another friendship. Resist blaming them or trying to change them. The key is focusing on being the kind of friend you want to be and creating opportunities.
My Girlfriends & My Sense of Wellbeing
I choose to love my friends for who they are and to joyfully embrace all that we share. And I resist putting rules or conditions on how these friendships are supposed to look or how they are supposed to evolve. I make the choice to feel connected by how I think about my friends whether I am with them or not. Without friendships, I lose perspective, feel worse about myself, and look at the world through a bleaker lens. In contrast, the feeling of connection I can generate by the ways I think of my friends and friendships makes me feel less alone, inspires me, and brings joy.
You always have access to loving relationships. My advice: start with having the most loving relationship of all with yourself and all the rest will grow more dear. If you’d like to deepen your connection with others, but feel stuck, I invite you to sign up for a coaching package. Together, we’ll discover what thoughts are causing you to feel that way and develop ways to overcome them, leading to a much richer life with connection and friendship.