I have a really good friend. She’s a new friend to me. I met her a few years back but in the last year or so, we’ve become great friends. She write a blog called Kickass Living and she has a a fun bucket list that I love. We have similar views on many things and differ on others. We both have children but we parent them differently. Not better or worse, just differently. We compare notes on our daughters’ antics. We are close in age (she finally turned 50 this year – whoo hoo -welcome to the club). The reason, I’m telling you about her is because I’m reading a book called The Happiness Project. It’s about creating a happier space for yourself and your life. The author begins by defining her 12 Commandments (overreaching principles she calls them) to live by and a lengthy list of Secrets of Adulthood (truisms of lessons learned). I’m not sure if this should be a commandment or a truism but I believe God has put my friend in my life for a reason (it’s a hard and fast rule for me: God places people in your path for a reason… all you need to do is ask yourself, why?).
Invest in your Happiness – Invest in your Friendships
As I read through the book, I see how Gretchen Rubin is basically becoming a change agent for herself. Traits that she is not proud of or feels could be improved upon, how she relates to her husband and friends, how she processes events that impact her family were all under the microscope. Some advice is great, some not my cup of tea but that will not stop me from sharing those pearls of wisdom that have resonated with me. The impact of one particular chapter has been big: investing in friendships. In chapter 6, Rubin espouses the virtues of having friends, nurturing those friendships and making them count. She talks about making a friendship special and making them an investment. Reminding us that you can’t pick your family but you can certainly pick your friends.
“Everyone from contemporary scientists to ancient philosophers agrees that having strong social bonds is probably the most meaning contributor to happiness.”
~ Gretchen Rubin
As a person that has moved around a bit, I quickly learned that when you leave a place, it’s your responsibility to keep up the friendships. If your friends have ‘stayed home’, their lives remain pretty much consistent: go to school or work, deal with the family, pay the bills and maybe take an occasional road trip. Life goes forward. If you go away, you have a tendency to meet new people, see new things, try new activities and even eat new food because it’s all ‘new to you’. Everything is one big ball of adventure. Ultimately, you will return home and you’ll get back into the grove of your particular family or town. It’s all good… if you make an effort and keep in touch.
Rubin writes about making birthdays special and celebrating important milestones. You have to give it to Facebook that maybe, just maybe, they read this chapter of Rubin’s book because it keeps you updated when it’s one of your friend’s birthdays or special events, right? It celebrates milestones in friendships (when you’ve became friends then rifles through pictures of the two of you together).
So keeping tabs of your friend’s birthday on FB is reason enough to love social media. I love celebrating my birthday and look forward to the good wishes and salutations on that one special day a year! Even if friends are not always in touch, I like that a once a year they stop by and say hello. I believe even in a small way they want to be involved in my life. The value of friendships does not have to be taxing.
Make New Friends – Find Common Interests
Another action item in The Happiness Project is to make three new friends when you find yourself in a new situation. Find people that have common interest: a book club, blogging, volunteering in your community or travel. Seven years ago I joined a book club . All of the women in the club were strangers to me. They were friends of a friend. Although the person that introduced me is no longer part of the club I remained and have made lasting, genuine friendships with these women. As we add new members every few years, I have come to make new friends. Through one member, I participated in the Women’s March rally in Toronto in January. She introduced me to some of her friends and the wheel keeps spinning round and round.
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself”
~ Gretchen Rubin
How else can you build friendships? Find a common love. Years ago, my husband and I bonded over food with two other couples. We had a ‘gourmet night’ in which we would prepared food from around the world. We would challenge each other to make it interesting by preparing appealing dishes with a few laughs in our failures. Some of the best times that I remember with those particular friends involved weird and wonderful meals (I’m sure the cocktails didn’t hurt either). I have maintained my friendship with Peri (see the image below) even though we no longer live in same city or province.
Another friendship that I value very much is one based on a common love of writing and traveling. I have written before about my antics with Paula from Thrifty momma’s Tips and LinkedMoms. We became friends over five years ago and as our blogs have evolved, so have our interests and our mutual love of travel. We have traveled to many conferences and recently spent time in the Gulf Shores in Alabama. We got to be astronauts for a day at Space Camp. Being a good friend in that relationship means patience and understanding of strengths. I’m really good about finding the right flights, hotels and organizing the trip. She is really good about the work that is being a travel blogger: the tweeting, posting, sharing and follow-up. We work together on different projects and it has been fun working towards a common goal with clients. We are off to Parkbridge with a bunch of other bloggers for the weekend. Once again, making time for building and strengthening friendships is important.
Make Friendships a Priority
I decided I needed to make time for my friends and make them a priority. I’ve driven 90 minutes to hang out with my friend Ann so we could have dinner together and catch up. She needed me there to get through a tough day. I was happy I did it. I wanted to show her what a true friend is like not a toxic friend.
I’m going to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) to support two friends whose daughter has a film showing there. This is my third trip to TIFF and I’m happy to be there for them in this special moment in their lives. I grew up with these two and they are very important to me. I’m sharing my time so that they know, they are very special people in my life. I am having coffee & dessert with other girlfriends (a back-to-school tradition) to catch up on our families. I know that we get busy sometimes but I am taking this Happiness Project challenge to heart and investing over and over again.
Making friends is important for your whole life even as an adult. It will make you a happier person – it does for me. When I was dropping off my daughter at University, I had her read a particular passage of the chapter on how to make new friends and open youself up to friendship. As she is sharing a room with a complete stranger and meeting new people, I thought these suggestions were very helpful (and a life lesson that I wanted her to absorb).
A Checklist for New Encounters
- Smile more frequently – it helps open the door
- Actively invite someone into a conversation – they maybe be new and need a little support
- Create a positive mood – don’t be a debbie downer… kick toxic friendships to the curb!
- Open a conversation – be prepare with current topics of interest – even the weather!
- Try to look accessible and warm – body language speaks volumes –
- Show a vulnerable side and laugh at yourself-
- Show a readiness to be pleased – accept a compliment, an invitation to dinner or a hand-me-down – making someone happy can bring you happiness (so don’t deny someone the opportunity to be happy)
- Follow others’ conversational lead – actively listen in a conversation for a cue to an interest that they want to discuss
I have dealt deep into this topic that is friendship because I am evaluating what makes me happy. Who makes me happy. Who I make happy. I have always place a huge weight on friendships. I am an extrovert – they are in effect what defines me and gives me energy and hope. Without my friends, I would lead a boring, boring life.
To you all, I thank you for your friendship.
Next up: Defining my Secrets of Adulthood rules…