It's a paradox that one can feel lonely despite a life full of activities, destinations and tasks. Unfortunately, it's a reality for many people, including me. I've been thinking about how my busy life often leaves me with little time for nurturing relationships with friends and family. I'm determined to find ways to reach out and spend more time with people. Here are my ideas for decreasing loneliness and building relationships, no matter how busy I am.
1. Face to face
Nothing beats face to face time with friends and family. Whether it’s virtual, via Skype or FaceTime, or in reality talking face to face will help you feel connected to the people who are important to you. I like to snuggle with my youngest daughter before her naptime, meet a friend for lunch or sit by my husband while he watches a basketball game. It’s nice to reconnect with friends at children’s sporting events or church. A few minutes of face to face time leaves me feeling happier.
2. Phone a friend
Like many of you, I’ve mastered the art of talking on the phone while doing household chores, excluding vacuuming. In the 20 minutes it takes to clean my bathroom I can catch up with my friend who lives in another state. She doesn’t mind if it’s a little noisy on the line. When I’m feeling lonely I want to talk and feel connected. Sometimes a simple phone call works.
3. Work out buddy
Exercise is something I do almost daily. When I lived in Michigan, I ran with several women each morning, even when it was dark and cold. Starting the day with good conversation and exercise was a perfect combination. Find someone to work out with, or recruit a friend to go to a new class at the gym with you. I know people who have had friendships for many, many years that began with exercising together. A good friend will motivate you to do your best and make exercise more fun. As a bonus, working out will improve your mood and help you feel less lonely.
4. Give and take
If your to do list is lengthy, invite a friend over to help you with tasks like organizing and cleaning. Then, on another day, go do tasks at her house. If you have a friend who is doing a home improvement project, offer to come lend a hand. He might return the favor at a later date, giving you more time to spend with one another. Relationships require give and take. Make sure you offer your spouse opportunities for nurturing and maintaining friendships outside of your relationship. My husband plays basketball most Tuesday nights. I’m glad he has time to exercise and hang out with his friends. He supports me when I go out with my friends, too, even on occasional overnight trips.
People with busy schedules need to make time for relationships. Sometimes that means scheduling things weeks or months in advance. If you really want to spend time with someone, get on their schedule and be patient. And if you are the person with the crazy schedule, be sure to block out some time for relaxing and relationships.
6. Like a good neighbor
Contact with others might be as easy as walking to the mailbox. I am not particularly close with most of my neighbors, but I like to chat with them for a few minutes outside when I see them. I have sought out a deeper friendship with one family, and we enjoy dinners and game nights together. Having neighbors as friends adds to a sense of community and belonging. Popping over for a chat or meeting outside as the kids play is a good way to have contact with adults during the day.
Life is meant for living and loving. Relationships and contact are important. Even if you’re busy, you don’t have to feel lonely. Try one of these six ways to connect next time you need a dose of human connection.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.