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Friends are for connection

Silmilar Articles


Studies across the world have shown that meaningful relationships are the number one predictor of both happiness and resilience.

However, our connections are often the first thing to be sacrificed when life gets busy.


Connection refers to the quality and strength of our relationships.

It refers to relationships that are built on openness and trust, and where we share meaningful experiences and conversations with each other. It's the opposite of drama and friction.

Unfortunately, when we are lacking time and energy, investing in our relationships is often the first thing we abandon. Instead of connecting during chaos, we tend to draw inward and go it alone.

When a big project is put on our desk, or we feel our to-do list getting longer, our first instinct is to say 'no' to the lunch suggestion from a colleague, or to cancel dinner with friends next Saturday.

We spin our wheels as we attempt to get more done, but often 'make little headway. We are putting in the hours, but the quality, focus and creativity of our work is often lacking. As we work at a lower level of efficiency, we become frustrated, distracted and isolated.

Ironically, sacrificing time to connect with others to work on our to-do list only makes us more stressed. Culturally, this is expected.

At our workplaces, we see others doing the same thing and think this must be the way to get ahead. What we don't always see are other people's stress levels or recovery habits outside of work.

The most resilient people, however, take a different approach.


Resilient people make time for connection both before and during stressful times. Instead of seeing social interactions as 'yet another thing to do', resilient people overcome the 'scarcity mindset' of believing they don't have enough time to invest in connection with others.

They see time 'spent' connecting with others as investments into meaning, wellbeing and productivity, rather than a distraction. Thinking of relationships as spending time with people implies that we never get back what we put in; that it has no ongoing benefit. However, investing time in relationships compounds and pays back growing dividends over time.

Together with investing our time in journaling, practicing gratitude, or mindfulness, connection adds to the resources we have for tackling important goals, projects, or stressful times.

Studies show that we perceive situations as less stressful when we have access to social support. We are more able to interpret adversity as a challenge. Connecting with others releases stress recovery hormones into our bodies, and our blood pressure drops.

On top of these physiological benefits of reaching out to others, we also gain new perspectives that help us challenge our ideas and assumptions.

Hearing from others is motivating, and we may well be on the end of some much needed or unexpected encouragement or advice. We share perspectives that lead to lightbulb moments.

Instead of grinding it out, the most resilient among us see social connection as a chance to refresh and come back to their to-do lists with more clarity, energy and purpose.


So what can we do to break the cycle of withdrawing when we could be reaching out?

First, we need to know the different roles played by the different members of our team.

Among our friends, family or colleagues, who do we go to for advice? Who do we go to for a hug? Who do we go to when we need a laugh?

Second, moments of connection don't need to be hours long. Small moments of interaction can be valuable if we are mindful and deeply present when we interact with someone. Try to keep your phone out of sight so you are 100% attentive.

Finally, try to always have a social engagement to look forward to planned ahead in your diary. This could be a standing lunch date with a colleague, a regular phone call with a family member, or a quarterly catchup with an old school friend.


Reflect: Think of time used in social connection as investments rather than expenses. Say to yourself "I invested time seeing my friend, I didn't spend it.” With investments, dividends come regularly later on.

Plan: Find ways to habit-stack time for connection onto things you already do. A good one is movement. Ask a friend to join you for your daily walk, or call you on your way to or from work. If you work from home, try the 'fake-commute' where you get out of the house before and after work each day to change mindset.

Act: To build your connection, work on becoming more of an active listener. When someone shares something with you, instead of merely grunting or saying 'that's nice,' get in the habit of asking one or two questions about what they just said. This deepens bonds, and ensures the other person knows you were really listening.