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Happiness – Strengthened by Relationships

When things are tough, it's our relationships that help us cope, get happier, and recenter. Of course, we all think about relationships with other people, and yet it's also our relationship with ourselves and our four-legged friends.

What about relationships with other people? Let's look at categories of relationships in terms of how we might identify them, or the names we might use intermally as we think about the people we know.

  • Acquaintances. Most of us have a lot of acquaintances--people that we enjoy spending time with, with whom we share things in common, and yet these are not the people we would call on if we were in a real jam. They might be co-workers, people you know from social settings--and you enjoy seeing them now and then, even though you may not know much about each other's lives, and certainly not your inner thoughts and feelings.
  • Friends. Friends are people we spend more time with than the people we call acquaintances. They know more about us. They are a more integral part of our lives, and support and concern are reciprocal at greater levels with them. Still, there are boundaries about what time of day we would call them, what we might ask of them, how comfortable we are knowing more of their lives.
  • Confidantes. From within your friends there are a few who know almost everything there is to know about you. These are the people you can turn to when times are tough and whom you can call almost any time. You probably wouldn't call them at two in the morning, and maybe not after ten--but you know you might if it were extraordinary circumstances. Confidantes hold many of your secrets; they know your hopes and dreams, your fears and nightmares. You are still selective about what they know, even though the level of trust and support is high.
  • "Best friends" or "Adopted" brothers and sisters. These people are different from your confidantes in what they know about you--it might be a different set of very private information, and these folks may know a different set of secrets than your confidantes or perhaps deeper levels of secrets. You know, though, that your adopted brothers and sisters will stand up for you, and will hold you in high regard no matter what.

So as you thought about the people you know, you probably noticed that the largest groups are "acquaintances" and "friends." Here are five things you can do starting today to engage relationships to help you get happier in these tough times:

  1. Make group lists in your e-mail of different sets of the people you know--perhaps groups of acquaintances with a few friends, a confidante, and even a best friend or two--and set a regular place and time to gather for conversation and a (cheap) meal, keeping your boundaries intact.
  2. Set appointments on your calendar to call and ask people how they are doing--include people who are of different ages and circumstances. Asking them how they are doing begins to set reciprocity in motion, so it becomes about both of you.
  3. Create a job networking list. Make lists of people in the same line of work, and begin to find out who is hiring and who needs a job. Send out links to job hunting groups in your area to folks in your area.
  4. Schedule play time with people you enjoy being around--help each other laugh!
  5. When someone comes to mind that you know, call them and ask how they are doing. This helps you increase the strength of your connection.

Remember: connecting decreases isolation, increases endorphines, and focuses on our commonalities. It helps you get happier.