• June 2015

Happiness: Make Time for Friends!

How is your Happiness Project going?

We continue the discussion of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and this month we invite you to embark on her goal for June: Make Time for Friends.

Why is friendship essential to happiness?

Rubin explains: “Everyone from contemporary scientists to ancient philosophers agrees that having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness.”

  • Positive psychology experts Ed Diener, PhD, and Martin Seligman, PhD, explain: Of all the things that wisdom provides for living one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship.”
  • One study showed that whether you are exercising, working in the community, or doing housework, everything is more fun with company.
  • While it may be obvious that friends make life better for extroverts — it’s also true for introverts. In fact, Rubin reports that researchers found that out of 15 daily activities, there is only one that people report they are happier doing alone: praying. Mind you, “the point of praying is that you’re not talking to yourself.”

Here’s how Rubin recommends you make more time for friends this month:

  • Remember birthdays. Hard as it is to keep track of your friends’ birthdays, try using the bday tracking option on Facebook. Better yet — call your closest friends on their special days. And your own address book — via email, or the one you actually pen in information — is perhaps the best place to start creating a master list. The key is to pay attention, and take time to remember the special days of the people who mean the most to you.
  • Be generous. To do this, first reflect on the nature of generosity. “Giving presents is one way to be generous,” Rubin acknowledges. But there are other strategies that may mean more to you. For example, Rubin realized that she felt most generous when she helped people think big, brought people together, and cut people some slack. What does it mean to you to be generous?
  • Show up. Film director Woody Allen perhaps said it best: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Ditto for being a good friend. Rubin asserts: “Unless you make consistent efforts, your friendships aren’t going to survive.”
  • If you must gossip, say something nice. Rubin explains: “When people gossip, they generally criticize other people, mostly for violating social and moral codes. Despite its bad reputation, gossip plays an important social role by reinforcing community values; it make people feel closer to each other, it unifies people who play by the rules, it helps people get a sense of the values in their community, and it exposes the misbehavior of those who cheat on their spouses, don’t return phone calls, or take credit for others’ work.” And here’s an interesting fact: Research suggests both mean and women prefer to gossip to women, seemingly because women are more satisfying listeners. They key to gossiping so it doesn’t hurt others is to avoid being critical about another person. Not easy to do? Consider this: Studies show that because of the psychological phenomenon of spontaneous trait transference, people unintentionally transfer to you the traits you ascribe to other people. “So you will do well to say only good things,” Rubin observes.
  • Make three new friends. If you think you don’t have time to make new friends, think again, says Rubin. “Making a new friend is tremendously energizing; they expand your world by providing an entrance to new interests, opportunities, and activities, which can a valuable source of support and information — and just as happiness-inducing, you can play the same role for them.” While Rubin admits her strategy to accomplish this goal “sounds a bit cold-blooded and calculating, it really worked.” She set herself a target goal and developed a friend quota by focusing on making a good impression. If you’d like to focus on making a good impression, try: smiling more frequently, actively inviting others to join a conversation, creating a positive mood, looking accessible and warm, laughing at yourself, and asking questions.

Stay tuned for more tips in July on money: Buy Some Happiness.

And don’t forget:

January’s resolution focuses on Vitality: Boost Your Energy

  • Go to sleep earlier
  • Exercise better
  • Toss, restore, and organize
  • Tackle a nagging task
  • Act more energetic

February’s advice regarding Marriage: Remember Love

  • Quit nagging
  • Don’t expect praise or appreciation
  • Hug
  • Fight right
  • No dumping
  • Give proofs of love

March’s goals about Work: Aim Higher

  • Launch a blog
  • Enjoy the fun of failure
  • Ask for help
  • Work smart
  • Enjoy now

April’s insights are on Parenting: Lighten Up

  • Sing in the morning
  • Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings
  • Be a treasure house of happy memories
  • Take time for projects

May is time to: Be Serious About Play

  • Find more fun
  • Take time to be silly
  • Go off the path
  • Start a collection

And this month we: Make Time for Friends

  • Remember birthdays
  • Be generous
  • Show up
  • If you gossip say something nice
  • Make three new friends

Learn more about Gretchen Rubin and her Happiness Project in the December 2014 issue of Be Inkandescent magazine.