As 2019 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect upon this past year’s experiences and cherish the memories you’ve created with family and friends. Friendships, especially those that are meaningful and close, have a unique and special significance in the way they enrich our lives. Unlike family relationships which are established by blood or marriage, friendships are relationships we intentionally choose and work to co-create. We’re simply drawn to certain people through our common interests, values, backgrounds, and shared experiences together. These kinds of mutually beneficial relationships can really help to bring out the best in both individuals. And the friendships which last and survive the test of time are those which remain unconditional. 

Benefits of Good Friendships

Friendships are vital to your well-being. Real friends not only celebrate good times but are also there to provide support during the tough times. They offer companionship and belonging, which help to increase your sense of purpose and meaning. Other benefits of friendships and similarly strong support systems include:

  • Boosts your happiness and reduces stress
  • Improves your self-confidence and sense of self-worth
  • Prevents loneliness and depression
  • Helps you cope with personal traumas
  • Reduces the risk of health problems
  • Supports longevity

By acknowledging our good friendships, we create an opportunity to really appreciate the friends about which we deeply care. It’s also a good practice to reflect on those friendships which are perhaps no longer meaningful, need to be changed in some way, or simply need to be let go. This is also an occasion to consider creating some new friendships, or going deeper with some relationships that have been positive for you. Whether you’re looking to nurture old friends or make new ones, cultivating and maintaining friendships is a skill that requires patience, grace, intention, and effort on your part.

Nourish Your Friendships

Here are some tips to help you nourish and nurture more healthy friendships:

  • As in many things, quality counts more than quantity. Having a few close friends that you trust and care about will enrich your life significantly. Feel free to complement your close friendships with a diverse network of acquaintances stemming from your work, interests, or other activities.
  • Take time to thank your close friends. Write down a list of your friends whom you cherish, and then think of a way to express your gratitude to each individual. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. It could be as simple as sending a thank you card or email, taking your friend out for coffee, giving your friend a call, or just giving them a hug and saying, “Thanks for being a wonderful friend!” Exercise simple practices like these regularly.
  • Be proactive in staying in regular contact with your friends. Although people’s lives seem to be busier than ever, it’s important to stay in contact with your friends if you want to keep them. Make it a point to give your friend a call, email, or text just to let her know that she’s in your thoughts. Phone calls can be especially nice, as they allow you to communicate on a level that goes beyond text on a page or on a screen. There’s something powerful about actually hearing your friend’s voice, and knowing that he’s listening to yours. These are the kinds of communication that make for meaningful connections.
  • Practice really listening.  When you let your friend know that you’re there to listen, especially if you can listen without judgment, you will inevitably nurture a stronger bond. Being mindful and paying attention to your friend’s words, asking thoughtful, clarifying questions (if necessary), and giving her your full presence are all ways to listen more deeply.
  • Honesty is the best policy. Trust and authenticity are built upon being honest in our communications, attitudes, and actions – and these are critical ingredients to good, healthy friendships.
  • Accept your friends for who they are, and respect their choices. We all want people to accept and love us for who we are, even if we don’t necessarily agree with a particular choice or point of view. Expressing an honest opinion is one thing, but real friends also respect other friends’ need to learn, grow, and have their own experiences. It’s okay for friends to disagree on certain things; in fact, it can even be healthy.
  • Keep your promises. Do what you say you will do! Friendships thrive when friends know they can count on each other, and will follow through with what they promise. It’s also important to be honest with what you can and cannot do; this will help to avoid feelings of mistrust or disappointment due to perceived unreliability.
  • Celebrate each other’s successes. We need our friends when times are challenging, but we also want them there when it’s time to celebrate an accomplishment. Remember, it’s not always about you! Being able to be genuinely happy for another person’s successes and achievements is a wonderful way to show unconditional love and support.
  • Carve out time to have some fun, too! Friendships need to grow and change, so doing things that are new and fun are great ways to develop the friendship. Try taking a class together, making a road trip, going to see a movie or concert, or trying some other new things that will help you create more happy moments and memories together.

Remember, real friendships take time, intention, and effort. Make nurturing your old friendships and cultivating some new ones a resolution for the new year ahead!

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