Last week was Valentine's Day, a time to focus on romantic love. But our other relationships are equally important to living a happy life. Happify, LiveYourDream.org’s new corporate sponsor, uses science to teach people happiness-boosting strategies using groundbreaking research in positive psychology. According to Happify, “scientists have found that what separates the happiest 10% of the population from everyone else is the strength of their social bonds.”
The Dream Team asked the Friendship Doctor, Irene Levine, to share her thoughts on strengthening relationships, both platonic and romantic. We also invite you to sign up at Happify to investigate additional ways to keep your personal connections healthy.
By Irene S. Levine, PhD
Irene S. Levine is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the New York University-Langone School of Medicine. An award-winning journalist, she is the author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend and the creator/producer of a popular online advice column, http://www.TheFriendshipBlog.com.
As a kid, when February rolled around, I remember my mom buying me packaged Valentine’s Day cards to share with my classmates. We signed the cards, wedged them into envelopes and dropped them into a big decorated box. On Valentine’s Day, two students delivered the cards to each of our desks. What fun it was to receive them.
As I grew older, for reasons I’m not sure about, Valentine’s Day veered toward romantic, rather than platonic, love. Yet for many, Valentine’s Day means much more than hearts, chocolates, and roses; the affection they feel on that day extends beyond lovers to their close friends and relatives, too.
Since even the strongest of friendships needs to be nurtured, here are 7 ways to let your closest friends know how important they are to you on Valentine’s Day (or any other day of your choosing):
1. Say it in words. Text or call—or write her a card, note or email—expressing how much her friendship means to you. After all, Valentine’s Day gives everyone license to act a bit more affectionate than usual.
2. Remind her visually. Send her a photo of a wonderful time you had together in the past and tell her how happy it makes you feel that you’re still friends after all these years.
3. Give the gift of time. Instead of always saying, “We have to get together,” make concrete plans. Get out your smartphone or calendar and set up a time to get together—even if it’s just over a cup of coffee or a drink. Or, agree to read the same book or go to a movie together so you can talk about it afterwards; these can be great springboards for sharing your feelings.
4. Plan a getaway. Perhaps you’ve both been busy and haven’t seen each other for a while. Your lives have diverged although you still feel like kindred spirits. Commit to spending uninterrupted time together on an extended visit or on vacation so you can reconnect and forge new memories.
5. Weave her into the fabric of your life. If she’s single or divorced and you’re married with children, invite her to join one or more of your family traditions. Introduce her to one of your other friends or to your mother, sister or cousin.
6. Apologize if you should. If something has recently gotten in the way of your friendship and you think you may have been at fault, don’t be too big to apologize.
7. Express your love. Tell your closest friends how important they are to you and give them a big hug or a kiss. You may even want to send them flowers or candy.