Friday morning I walked with my friends from the fitness center that recently closed. The whole morning crew was there, so six of us made our way around the loop at the park. Although we don't move as quickly together as I would move on my own, that Friday morning walk still feels like the most important one I take each week.
When my daughter and I stopped at our friends' house on Saturday night to quickly drop off a thank you, they invited us in, sharing some exciting news and catching up on events in our lives. As Lily sat there petting their cat, I reveled in how lucky we are to have such good friends.
As I walked down the steps at church Sunday morning, I heard a fellow member call, "Hi, Christin!" and it made me smile from ear to ear. I stopped to lend another friend the latest book from an author we both like, and she told me she had several from the same author I could borrow as well.
After each of these interactions, my heart was full. And grateful. These small moments and several others contributed to what turned out to be a pretty special weekend.
Common sense tells us that relationships matter; research proves it. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor cites "70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world." There's only one characteristic that distinguishes the happiest 10% of the people - the strength of their social relationships. His Harvard study found the same result: "social support was a far greater predictor of happiness than any other factor, more than GPA, family income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race."
Relationships also help us deal with difficult situations. According to Achor, "investing in social connections means that you'll find it easier to interpret adversity as a path to growth and opportunity; and when you do have to experience the stress, you'll bounce back from it faster and better protected against its long-term negative effects."
A friend who recently went through a difficult time was amazed by the way her friends and family members supported her, whether with affirming messages, advice, open ears, pep talks, logistics help, transportation, resources, meals, and so on. I wasn't surprised at all; she's contributed to each of her friends' lives in countless ways throughout the years, so each friend was happy to step up and provide support during her difficult time.
Not sure the best way to spend your time or money to live a happier life?
Invest in relationships.