Sunday, August 4, is National Friendship Day. This day was established by Hallmark in 1919. While many people might not be huge followers of Hallmark holidays, there’s something uniquely special about this one. Perhaps it’s the idea that many of us often take our friends for granted, so it’s nice to have an official day to honor them. The fact is, we spend a lot of time glorifying and acknowledging romantic lovers, but platonic relationships are no less important and rewarding. They also give us the ongoing support we need to navigate so many of life’s challenges.
During the course of my lifetime, I’ve moved at least a half dozen times, and sometimes it can be unsettling, especially as I’ve gotten older. However, I still have a few childhood pals I’m in regular communication with. I also have at least one friend from each place I’ve lived. When my kids were young, these friends were most often the mothers of their friends, and often I didn’t have a lot in common with them except that our children enjoyed playing together. When my kids grew up and moved away, it was easier to choose my own friends, who had interests similar to mine. However, there’s something about long-term friends that’s different. Somehow, each time you see them, you can pick up where you left off as if no time has passed between your meetings. A special bond has been formed over the years that you both cherish.
In many ways, it’s more difficult to make friends when we’re adults. In most cases, we have to go out of our way to meet with people. However, human beings really do have a need to interconnect. Typically, the friends we make during our adult years are special in a different way than our long-term friends, because most often instead of sharing a past history, there’s a tendency to share a passion for similar beliefs and hobbies.
A study done by Murray and Peacock (1996) found that one of the core ingredients for happy people is having a number of close relationships in their lives. These can be friends, family members, or co-workers. Their study showed that having close relationships accounted for about 70 percent of one’s personal happiness.
Here are some ways to make special new friends or to expand your social circle:
- Reach out to neighbors.
- Do volunteer work.
- Visit your local library.
- Befriend someone in the workplace.
- Embark on a new hobby.
- Start a new social group.
- Make friends at your gym.
- Check in frequently with those you care about.
Remember, it’s much more important to be interestedthan to be interesting. Try being enthusiastic about other people’s lives, and celebrate all their successes. And, offer a sympathetic ear. People like to know you care about what’s going on in their lives. It’s also a good idea to open up about your own life, because this inspires others to open up about theirs. One doesn’t get and keep near and dear friends by discussing the weather.
Loneliness is often a common trait among seniors. Studies have shown that one major regret many dying individuals have is not remaining in touch with old friends. Because of the availability of social media, this is much easier than it was years ago. So, know that today is as good a day as any to reach out and reconnect with an old friend . . . or perhaps connect with a new one.