That's what friends are for

Back in July 2017, I wrote the below post as the email for the week to mark International day of friendship. In my act of reflecting on my two years of email writing, this one quite rightly makes the top ten of the most popular. 

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July 30th is International day of Friendship. and in the words of the United Nations:

Our world face many challenges, crises and forces of division — such as poverty, violence, and human rights abuses — among many others — that undermine peace, security, development and social harmony among the world's peoples.

To confront those crises and challenges, their root causes must be addressed by promoting and defending a shared spirit of human solidarity that takes many forms — the simplest of which is friendship.

Through friendship — by accumulating bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust — we can contribute to the fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve lasting stability, weave a safety net that will protect us all, and generate passion for a better world where all are united for the greater good.

A chance to celebrate the idea of friendship and look into a bit more was too good an opportunity. I am blessed with some very good friends and where I am now is down to them with no doubt.

It's your friends who get you, support you and pick you up. I know I have friends I wish I saw more often, wrote to more regularly but the days turn into weeks and then a month has gone by. This article from the fabulous Unstuck folks acknowledges we probably can't make more time in our days but we can prioritize re-connecting and gives some practical and 'time boxed' ways you can re-connect.

So yes, friends support and embolden you and they can also challenge you, expanding your horizons, remind you of your moral compass. I have a friend that in tough times I do wonder 'what would xxxxx do'.

I could list the things you need to do to be a good friend - this article does that very well - part of flexing your friendship muscles. A big one for me is remembering the trigger points for our friends. A good friend of mine sent me a special message because she knew something in the news would upset me - that meant the world to me. I sent a friend a heads-up that a certain film might trigger an anxiety moment, as it did with me. The 'saw this and thought of you' message that comes out of nowhere can be so powerful.

Social isolation is bad for us. I recall my cardiology days and knowing that those patients who had suffered a heart attack and had a social support network were likely to recover better than those without. This applies to us all and as this article also from Unstuck describes, your friends are a magical elixir with the potential to make anything in life better.

The Unstuck article also discusses the challenge of social connection in an online world.  As a big fan of social media I am aware of how easily I can 'loose' time. Would that be better spent meeting a friend for coffee or writing a letter to re-connect to a friend overseas? This interview article reviews the research from the 90s that from two groups, those with the internet connection became more lonely and depressed. Since the time of this study social media has moved and within the interview there is the debate about what connection is, whether video calls can create connection. It's a great article rich with concepts and ideas relating to the idea of connection. The powerful reminder is that however many 'friends' we may have, it is the ones we can count on that matter - the ones we can call up at 4am. We don't need to have a lot of friends, we do need to have friends we can count on. 

I haven't read this book (yet) but this TEDx talk from Martin Lieberman gives you the neuroscience behind our need to be social, talking with great clarity about our social super powers. He blew my mind slightly with the notion that Maslows hierarchy is wrong and that social needs are in fact the most important to us. In fact he goes on to say getting more social is the secret to making us smarter, happier and more productive. There is a great connection with social skills of leaders and the power of positive feedback. So all in all, this talk is well worth the 18 minutes of your life.

I must pay credit to this site who gives a great description of the book and talks in depth about some of the concepts, if you want to dig deeper.