When I was a little girl, summer was a time filled with lazy days, family, friends and neighbors. My siblings and I spent our time at the local swim club surrounded by our friends; swimming, playing tennis, ping pong, and just hanging out. When we were old enough to work, we got jobs at the pool club. Camp counselor, lifeguard, kitchen help; it didn't matter as long as we could all be at "the club." We didn't need to think about making time for our friends and family. We were together all the time.
Now that I'm an adult, with adult responsibilities, summer days often feel like any other day of the year. Working, taking care of the house and family and always rushing to get things done leaves little free time to spend with others. I know I'm not alone. My friends and clients complain that there are just not enough hours in the day, and they are too busy to take the time to enjoy just "hanging out." What I miss the most from those lazy summer days are the relationships I had with my summer friends.
So with free time so limited, it is imperative that when we do get the chance to speak with or be with those we love and enjoy, we do everything possible to nurture those relationships. This summer, I am making a conscientious effort to schedule dates with friends, whether it's for coffee, lunch, or a walk with our dogs. When we are together, I make sure I am totally present and engaged.
Behavioral scientists tell us relationships are the backbone of happiness, and I want to be as happy as I was during those long ago lazy days of summer. Here are some tips to help you nourish the relationships in your life, and increase your happiness as well.
1. Stay in touch with those you love. When we lead busy lives, it's way too easy to let important people slip through the cracks. Although I much prefer to reconnect with others on the phone, the time for conversations are too few and far in between. A quick email or postcard just to say, "Hello, I'm thinking of you" can make all the difference.
2. Delegate one night or weekend morning a month to reconnect. Knowing you've set a specific time to make some calls, or meet someone special for breakfast or dinner, will assure you do get quality time with those you care about.
3. Shut off your digital devices when you are with others. Technology is great and allows us to be accessible 24/7. However, when we let our calls, text and email messages to pull our attention away from those we are with, we send the message, "Our time together is not important."
4. Listen more than you talk. Don't interrupt. Practice the art of active listening to send the message, "I care about you and what you say." Stay quiet and attentive, and try to turn off the little voice in your head that is thinking about what you want to say next.
5. Do something nice before being asked. It is easy to take for granted those we love the most. In the morning, hand a cup of coffee to your significant other. Leave a note in your kids lunch bag, saying "Have a nice day." Take chicken soup to a sick friend. Bring home flowers just because. There are a million little things that say, "I love you and care about you."
6. Don't multitask relationships. While having conversations, resist the temptation to look at emails, read the paper, sort through the mail, or check the score of the game on TV. If you can't give your full attention when it is asked for, set a specific time to speak when you can.
7. Be on time for appointments. If you consistently show up late, you are telling others, "My time is more important than yours."
8. Remember common courtesies and practice them daily. Keep your promises, be appreciative by saying please and thank you, give sincere compliments often. It is the small, simple gestures each day that gives our friends and family the message, "You are important to me and I care about our relationship!"