Did you know that studies have shown close friendships can increase your lifespan almost as much as regular exercise?! But between work, school, sports, and more, it can sometimes feel impossible to make time for friends.
Why We Need to Make Time For Friends
But bumping your friends off your calendar would be a huge mistake! Because our friendships are a lifeline, and have a huge impact on our mental, emotional, and physical health.
- Spending time with friends relaxes and refreshes you. When I’m talking, relating, and laughing with friends, my to-do list seems to magically disappear from the back of my mind. Not only does our time together relax me, but it also refreshes me. So when I do return to my list, it doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.
- It reminds you that you’re not alone. When my husband has added errands to my day that I wasn’t planning on, my toddler has had 317 meltdowns, and it’s only 10 am, it’s easy to feel all alone and defeated. But connecting and swapping stories with other wives and mothers reminds me that we’re all in pretty much the same boat. And that reminder provides a huge wave of relief that lasts for days, or even weeks!
- It leaves you feeling encouraged. Unless you have friends that are negative and constantly dragging you down (in which case, I suggest making new friends), your friends probably believe in you and cheer you on through every stage of life. They might provide the boost in confidence you need to start that new business, go back to school, finally leave that bad relationship, or make another positive change.
- Friends can provide a fresh perspective. I majored in exercise science in school and had worked in gyms, hospitals, and medical offices for years. Even though I felt burned out, I thought it was the only thing I was really qualified to do. Luckily, my friend (with a vastly different background) helped me to think outside of the box about my career. With his encouragement and support, I snagged my favorite job to date, working for a large tech company. As Frans Johansson said, “The best ideas emerge when very different perspectives meet.”
- When you make time for friends, you’re creating a life-saving support system. In healthy friendships, each friend gives and receives support through life’s ups and downs. We’ve been blessed to have friends host parties for us, watch our house and dog while we’re away, care for our daughter while we enjoy a night out, and more. And we’ve supported our friends by watching their kids, bringing meals when they’re sick or surviving a new baby, and supporting their businesses. We’ve passed baby clothes, electronics, and furniture back and forth, and have taken turns providing an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, unconditional love, and encouragement. This support system is especially vital if you don’t live near your family, or don’t have a supportive family.
- Spending time with friends boosts your physical health. Scientific studies have found that loneliness is worse for your health than obesity, and even carries the same health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. What the what?! Spending time with friends lowers blood pressure, strengthens your immune system, improves hormone function, increases your life span, encourages healthy practices, and might even lower inflammation levels!
How to Make Time For Friends
But all of those benefits don’t clear up our busy schedules, do they? So how can you make time for friends when you sincerely don’t have extra time?
- First, if you have to do something anyway, do it together. I have to get my kid out of the house at least every other day, or she’ll turn into a tiny tasmanian devil. My sister-in-law needs to get her kids outside too. So we meet at the same park. My husband has to exercise, as do his friends, which is why they sometimes play basketball together on our neighborhood court. It doesn’t cost you any additional time, and will probably make whatever you’re doing that much more enjoyable.
- Second, keep it simple. You don’t have to serve a five-course meal every time your friends visit. Make spaghetti or another stupid easy meal, or order a pizza, with slice-and-bake cookies for dessert (if you can resist the dough while your oven preheats, which…I can’t). Or plan visits before or after meals, so no one has to cook.
- Third, keep it short and sweet if necessary. Don’t have a few hours to spare? Ask your friend if you can swing by their house for 30 minutes while you’re out running errands. A few minutes together is better than no minutes at all.
- Fourth, combine your friends if they get along. If you set a goal to meet with one friend once a month, and another friend once a month, and then another, your calendar is going to fill up fast. Do your friends get along? Or do you think they might? I’ve found it’s easier to fit one slightly larger get-together into my calendar than three small ones. And more friends means less effort for everyone, which brings us to the next tip…
- Fifth, make it a joint effort. Are you making spaghetti? Ask your friend to bring a side or dessert. By spreading out responsibilities, your time together feels more doable for everyone.
- And finally, commit to a day and time, instead of saying, “We need to get together soon!” for all of eternity. I’ve said this at least 30 times with the same person…for over a year. Schedule your friends into your calendar like any other commitment to make sure that it actually happens.
Wrap It Up
Quality time with friends is so important and beneficial that you shouldn’t just find time for your friends, you should make time for them. Complete necessary tasks together, and keep get-togethers simple and short. Combine several friends in your plans, make it a joint effort, and commit to a date instead of just talking about it.
What’s your favorite way to spend time with friends? Share in the comments below!
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