The other night I made my husband go on a dad’s night out. (Don’t worry, he wanted to go.) Why? Because friendships—which are difficult for many men who are juggling late work hours with family responsibilities—aren’t just nice to have, they’re critical to our well-being.
For the past two months I’ve been managing a full plate (writing a book is partly to blame) and I’ve become aware of how much I’ve missed my girlfriends. I’ve been on Facebook more than normal and have observed with curiosity how this has made me feel. Last week I conducted a mini-experiment and rather than emailing, texting or messaging business partners, friends and colleagues—I picked up the phone and called them. And, I was amazed at how happy I felt as I moved through the week.
A well-known UCLA study on female friendships found that these key relationships not only help reduce stress, but they also extend our lifespans and reduce the likelihood of physical problems upon aging. The study discovered that women have a natural reaction to seek out their friends in times of stress (they called this “tend and befriend”), which helps them physically and emotionally return to home base. But friendships need cultivating, tending to. And what happens when we get busy and overscheduled? We cancel lunches, walks and tea/wine dates—when these meetings are exactly what we need to help us navigate life transitions and tough times. (Read Building a Support Network.)
As a life balance teacher, I coach women/men on the four areas of self –care (physical/emotional/mental and spiritual)—one of the best ways to enhance our equilibrium—and I’m always surprised by how often people neglect and overlook emotional self-care.
The care and feeding of our hearts is as important as eating nourishing foods and daily movement. Critical to this is seeking out and taking time to connect with friends who nourish us, and using discernment: knowing when its time to let friendships go and when it’s time to reach out and cultivate new or existing ones. This takes courage. It requires us to stretch. It’s part of our growth and evolution as spiritual beings. I can’t tell you how many heads nod when I bring up this theme at workshops/retreats; so many of us are still in old stagnant relationships that are draining us, rather than fueling us.
We need—and deserve—friends that let us show up “warts and all.” We need friends who encourage us to shine and are not threatened by our success (read more about owning your power) and we need confidants who provide a soft place to fall, a space for us to rest without having to prove, do or be anything to anyone. Consider the following questions as you reflect on this theme:
- Which of my friendships truly nourish me, who would I like to spend more time with?
- What relatinonships am I ready to let got of (or put on the back burner to simmer)?
- What do I most need from my confidants/close friends right now? Am I willing to share this with them?
- Am I ready to stop holding it all together, let go, be vulnerable and allow my friendships to evolve into deeper levels of intimacy?
This month I challenge you to focus on cultivating one to two key friendships. If spending time with good friends makes you feel like you can conquer the world, isn’t it time to make this a priority?