“Friendship,” said Christopher Robin, “is a very comforting thing to have.” ~ A.A. Milne
Listen to today’s post on the go or continue reading below …
Some of my strongest childhood memories involve friendships, as I am sure many of you would agree. When I was 5, I met my first and soon to be best friend at my babysitter’s house. As the animated movie Inside Out accurately depicts, our fondest memories are often a mixture of emotions, such as sadness and joy, even though thinking of them brings feelings of joy.
When I think back to my friendships that have developed over the years, it was the depth of experiences and a myriad of emotions that made them so long lasting. Getting through the hard times together, such as loss, physical distance, heartache, loneliness and anger, are what weave together the fibers that make friendships last.
As I was reflecting on my New Year’s goals for 2016, the most prominent thought I had was to be more grateful. I talk about gratitude a lot, believe wholeheartedly in the benefits to our well-being, but it is a very difficult concept to consistently practice. That is why I think it deserves to stand on its own, taking the spotlight in my resolutions for the year. In doing so, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on why I am thankful for friendships globally, while taking time on our own to reflect on individual ‘friends’.
For me, I have family that are friends; friends that are near, friends that are far; friends for a long time, friends for a short time; friends I work with and friends that work with me; and online friends, some I have never met – I am grateful for them all.
Our friendships & our well-being
1) Friendships enhance our emotional wellness: Research has shown that personal relationships can buffer our stressors and reduce negative emotions such as depressed mood. These relationships allow us to feel and express a range of emotions that are essential to our personal identity formation.
2) Friendships enhance our social wellness: Having friends makes us better at having friends! So does more friends make us better friends – not necessarily. Quality is far more important than quantity when it comes to relationships.
3) Friendships can enhance our physical & nutritional wellness: A friend can be a great motivator to be active, such as going for walks or meeting up at yoga. As well, we may make better food choices based on our friends. Where we chose to eat, what we chose to make for one another or what we make together. Eating together can be a very enjoyable social activity.
Two ways to express gratitude for our friendships
1) Privately: If you don’t already have a gratitude journal, the New Year is a great time to start. Maybe start with writing about one person you are grateful for everyday and at least one specific reason why. This is how I plan to start the year – I haven’t put a time frame on it as I want to make sure I include everyone!
Another fun way to express gratitude is by writing a message and putting it in a jar – a jar of joy. When you are feeling down, it can boost your spirits to reach in and remind yourself of someone you are grateful for – even if that person is no longer physically present or with us.
2) Publicly: I have yet to do this, but one gratitude practice is to write a letter or an email to someone you are grateful for and then either send it to them or meet with them to read it aloud. We are often good at sending a reactive thank you, but what about a thank you without a gesture? It would be a pretty uplifting experience for everyone involved.
Have you ever written a spontaneous gratitude message to either a friend or family member? If so, how did it make you and the other person feel?