A Friendly Reminder by Julie Leos

julie ragnarJulie Leos is a Higher Education PhD Student at the University of South Florida and works for the USF College of Business overseeing a Living Learning Program for high achieving business students. Julie enjoys making meaningful friendships, thinking of big ideas, traveling, and living in a warm climate. Julie can be followed on twitter: @julieAleos

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Having always been a fan of Gallup Strengths finder, I took some time a few years ago to read Tom Rath’s book titled Vital Friends. It confirmed my belief that friendship is a basic human need and something that needs to be nurtured, cared for, and sought after. A few years later his book, Wellbeing, took social wellness to a new level with research that declared that for each hour of social time you experience, your odds of having a good or bad day (depending on your company) increased.

Take a few minutes to think about a few of your closest friends. This could be a childhood friend, a friend you met as a grown up, a significant other, or just someone at work who gets you through the day. What is it about them that makes your life better and how does each friendship differ?

The idea of frienship and overall wellbeing became more clear in the past year. Let me explain. Just about a year ago I packed up my life and moved to Florida to start a PhD program. The demands of working full time alongside this endeavor changed the way I made friends. Getting back in the classroom is not difficult in terms of content; it is difficult because it requires my weeknights, my Friday nights, and occasionally, my Sundays. The game changer was having my best friend live in the same area code. A built in support system for any transition is important. For me – it’s been my rock.

I believe (and, generally, it’s proven by researchers) that friendship and companionship is associated with feeling a greater sense of purpose, happiness, mental wellness, and confidence. Not to mention, when things go wrong we may need others to get us through. Conversely, when we have something to celebrate it’s more fun to do that with friends.  I learned that the beauty of friendships is that they will manifest themselves differently depending on the stages of our lives. Here are just a few reasons why friendship works immediately and in the long run.

Healthy Friends = Healthier You. In the span of a year I have trained for three half marathons, one marathon, one Ragnar Trail race, and various other small races. Maybe I would have done some of those tings on my own, but mostly the motivation came from my friends. The hardest part of any race is not the race itself but the training ahead of time. Many people have the ability to do it alone, some need the support of friends. I am grateful to have friends who will inspire and motivate me to get out of bed, put in the miles, and constantly challenge me to improve. Find the people who have similar goals. You will see that those friendships will blossom exponentially.

What role do your friends play? I have friends who encourage me. I have friends who challenge me. I have friends who make me think of things differently. I have friends who sing my praises. I need them all. For every friend that offers me constructive feedback, I need a person who will encourage me and tell me I’m doing a great job. The message here is to analyze the different roles your friends play. You may realize things about your current friends that you may have realized before. Furthermore, tell them about it. Personally, when I know I inspire someone, I try harder to be that inspiration on purpose.

What kind of friend are you? As much as you need others, your friends need you. Know the role you play for them and be there for them. Time, lack of energy, and life often get in the way of being the friend that we want other people to be for us. Think about how you show your friendship. Do you give as much as your friends give to you? Do you return phone calls? Do you check in on friends just for the sake of checking in? The bottom line here is to give back. Your friends are important to you and you are as important to them. In the long run, investing in friendships will give you life long relationships that can bring peace, comfort, and longevity.

Forgive others and yourself. We are not perfect. By virtue of being human we are going to make mistakes, say things the wrong way, and will even have good intentions go wrong. As a grown up I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes even without trying I may hurt people. And that others may do the same to me. If your friendship is worth it, you will learn to grow, adapt, seek forgiveness, and forgive yourself. Like any relationship it’s the journey that makes you stronger.

In conclusion, I love to think of this quote. ” Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy: they are the charmind gardeners who make our souls blossom”

charming gardeners

Getting your soul to a happy place for some involves moments solitude and for others constant interaction with other people. Regardless of the ways in which you get energy, deep friendships are needed. Friends will get you through tough times, motivate you to do something you’ve never done, or they will simply sit with you in silence. Take time today to tell those important friends in your life that they make you happy, and they make you well. And – don’t ever stop telling them.

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