Friends not only improve the quality of your life, but also help you have a longer life. The emotional support of friendship leads to better health through positive effects on both body chemistry and the likelihood of accessing medical care. The cornerstone of friendship is mutuality. Common interests and experiences provide a framework for coming together and sharing time, thoughts and resources. Reaching out to people in sincerity can lead to strong, rewarding friendships that last a lifetime.
One of the easiest ways to meet potential friends is at meetings or activities you enjoy. You can reach out by asking others questions. In a cooking class, ask about favorite foods, menus or experiences. After a lecture, discuss points of interest and ask others their views. When you ask a question, listen for the answer and follow-up with more questions. This lets the person know you really heard them and you care enough to know them better. You're balancing a relationship-building conversation with information-gathering and sharing your own experiences.
Some friendships begin when one person reaches out to another in need. When an individual or a family in your community experiences sickness or other personal trauma, a thoughtful response can lead to friendship. Gifts of food or service bring welcome relief to a person who is ill. While making your own dinner, double the recipe to share. Offer to pick up items from the grocery store while you are making a run for yourself. Where a death occurs, a friendly smile and a listening ear can go a long way to make the bereaved person feel connected. When in doubt about what to do, just think about what you'd appreciate if you were in the same situation.
Workplace friendships increase job satisfaction and performance. When co-workers feel connected to each other and become friends, the supportive relationship has positive effects on job performance and workplace morale. Increased communication and common goals are more easily achieved when co-workers are friends. Reaching out to co-workers by expressing appreciation for their role in the workplace is important. Being sincere helps develop healthy friendships.
Ages and Stages
Most friendships form between individuals of about the same age and stage of life. Sharing ages and stages lends a sense of familiarity and increases the chances of bonding as friends. If you are a parent of a young child, suggest a play date to another parent with a child close in age to your child. You'll enjoy an afternoon at the park or the skating rink more when you have someone to share the experience. If you are retired and spend more time at home, invite another stay-at-home individual to come over for a coffee or tea break or to share lunch with you.
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For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.
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