One-third of the U.S. is experiencing clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the Center for Disease Control. It doesn’t take a study to show we miss connection and we’re grappling with how to increase closeness and nurture friendships during these extraordinary times.
our daily existence requires both closeness and distance — the wholeness of self, the wholeness of intimacy.-Judith Viorst
how to increase closeness
I’ve personally noticed as I’ve gotten older, close friendships are more difficult to forge and maintain. The busyness of life and the priority of partners, kids, and careers sadly forces friendships to fall by the wayside.
Not to mention, over the years, I’ve moved countless times to several states. This nomadic existence made my friendships inevitably shallow. Even with — especially with — social media at play. It’s a little too convenient to peek at their Facebook page to ensure all is well, but never hear their voice or laughter.
To this day, I consider the friends with whom I spent childhood my closest. But, I haven’t seen them in person for over ten years. I haven’t spoken on the phone with them in over five. But, the last time I was with them, it felt as though we picked up right where we left off.
I often wonder how much closer we’d be today if I hadn’t moved away. The time that lapsed between my leaving and our reuniting (pre-Facebook), caused us to miss weddings, childbirths, the loss of parents, and a plethora of other milestones.
But, a few years ago, when my dad suffered a subdural hematoma and four subsequent brain surgeries, guess who showed up at the hospital to console and feed me? As shallow as those friendships may have seemed due to distance and life’s obstacles, it became clear their roots run deep.
Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.
Opportunities to create and nurture friendships often depend on how we organize our lives. We formulate schedules to better ourselves, like working-out, family time, reading, etc., but before we know it, there’s no room left for friendships.
And, if you have a vagina, fahgettaboutit. We’re expected to raise kids, create a home, sex it up, have an admirable career, stay fit, be social media relevant, and do it all with a smile — just like society taught us. And when it’s time to release with a good, long cry, we long for the friends from whom we’ve physically and/or emotionally distanced.
The extreme societal divisiness we’re experiencing adds another layer of friendship obstruction. One mention of Trump or a political party can either make or break a close connection. –Amiright?
My grandmother shared her entire life with the same group of friends. They played bridge together weekly, accompanied each other to church biweekly, raised their kids, planned weddings, buried husbands, and never let their differing political affiliations get in the way.
I think close friendships boil down to how much effort we’re willing to put into them. Studies show the deeper our conversations with friends and the more vulnerable self-disclosure we offer, the closer our friendships will be. But, vulnerability can be a tall order in a perfection-driven society.
So, if we’re missing the closeness of friendship, whether from responsibility, distance, or a global pandemic, how do we proactively narrow the gap?
I recently learned about Greater Good in Action. It’s an über-resourceful collaboration between UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and HopeLab. They combine scientific studies with research-based methods to teach us how to lead happier lives. It’s a gold mine for those of us who want to up our well-being game.
Normally, you would conduct the activity in-person, but, pandemic times call for virtual measures.
So, we begin by visiting Greater Good in Action. We plan a Google Hangout with someone we want to know on a deeper level. Or block time with someone within our bubble. Then, we alternate asking the questions provided.
Here are some examples:
1 | Is there anything you would change about how you were raised?
2 | If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about something, what would you want to know?
3 | If you knew you would die within a year, would you change anything about the way you’re living now? Why?
Keeping friends close means letting them in on what’s going on in your life — not just the easy, superficial chit-chat we all seem to fall into.
When a humorous memory pops into our minds, it’s important we share it, whether through a phone conversation, Google Hangout, or even a text. The unexpected nostalgia brings with it immense connection.
And never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. My grandmother taught me to always write notes whether or not there’s an occasion for it. It’s all about depth and continuity.
True friends are those rare people who come to find you in dark places and lead you back to the light.-Steve Aitchison
Not long ago, I was struggling because my mother once again didn’t acknowledge my birthday. (Read more about that: Trauma and How the Body Keeps the Score: My Healing Journey After Child Abuse.) Fully aware of the depths of my heartbreak, my friend, Kim, mailed a bracelet to me. The inscription on the inside of the bracelet reads, ‘You are amazing. Keep f*cking going.’ Kim’s empathetic and generous act of kindness lifted my spirits and mental well-being. I mean seriously, what a precious friend!
I returned the favor with this perfectly quirky gift for my gorgeously quirky and thoughtful friend…
Nurturing our friendships requires we consistently express our appreciation for each other. Check-in. Swap stories. Ask thoughtful questions. Be an attentive listener. Skate past the small talk and take a deeper dive into each other’s lives. We need each other now more than ever. Seems to me, sharing honesty, trust, empathy, non-judgement, and love is exactly what the doctor ordered. –xo
I hope each of the feel-good nuggets I share nudges you to manifest flow within your mind, body, and soul. And for future inspiration, be sure to bookmark and subscribe to Flow as new creative ideas are added often. Thanks for flowing with me, y’all. I’m crazy-happy you’re here.