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  • Nancy Webb

Why Are Friends So Important In Retirement?

Retirement can be a time of metamorphosis when we resume our hobbies, try new activities, buy a boat, move to our dream house, and travel the world. But during these changes, maintaining one important element of our lives makes a monumental difference: Relationships with Friends. Yes, friendships can be challenging, confusing, and frustrating. But making and keeping friends is as important to our well-being as eating right and exercising.

Friends are Good for Us.

· Friends increase our sense of belonging and purpose in life.

· Friends boost our happiness and help us reduce the impacts of stress.

· Friends improve our self-confidence and make us feel good about ourselves.

· Friends help us weather the storms in life, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one.

· Friends also encourage us to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking, not eating right or lack of physical activity.

Friends also Contribute to a Reduced Risk of Significant Health Problems including, Depression, High Blood Pressure, and an Unhealthy Body Mass Index. An 83-year study by Harvard University discovered that older adults who have meaningful relationships and social support are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.

Making and Keeping Friends Can be Tough.

Raising a family and a demanding career doesn’t leave a lot of room for friends. We grow apart from our friends due to changes in lifestyles, responsibilities, and interests. Or we move across the country and haven’t found the opportunities to meet new people. Yes, friends can be hard work, but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.

How to Meet New Friends?

· Reach out to people that you meet through your daily routine and have made a positive impression. There are always such interesting women at my hair stylist. I have two salon friends with that we try to sync our appointments up at the same time so that we can catch up.

· Stay in touch with co-workers that you have something more in common with than work.

· Reconnect with old friends. I recently ran into one of my best friends from Junior High – we immediately bonded again.

· Introduce yourself to neighbors.

· Ask someone from an organization you belong to (that you think you might like) to lunch.

· Attend community events such as fundraisers.

· Volunteer for organizations that you may have an interest in such as the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

· Extend and Accept Invitations. If someone thinks enough of me to invite me to a function – I make sure I accept – as if they like me – then I most likely will like them.

· Join a Faith Community. Be sure to take advantage of get-to-know-you activities.

· Take a walk. Grab your pet and head outside. I take my cat for a walk (in a stroller of course) every evening along the Seawall. There are always new cat lovers to greet – but I also see the regulars who like to walk at the same time I do. I often times run into them when I am about my day, and our friendships continue to grow.

How Do I Nurture My Friendships?

· Be Nice. For every act of kindness and every expression of gratitude – you are making deposits into this relationship. Criticism and negativity make subtractions.

· Listen. Ask about them and what is going on in their lives. Let them know you are paying attention through body language and by positive comments.

· Be Vulnerable. Build up the friendship by sharing information about yourself. Be willing to disclose personal experiences that show your friends you welcome their insight. But remember, it can’t always be about “you.”

· Be Trusted. Being reliable and responsible is key to forming close relationships. Beware of gossip. Repeating what your friends share with you in a negative or demeaning way – erodes the trust of who you are gossiping about as well as who you are gossiping to.

· Be grateful. Compliments and expressions of appreciation for your friend are always a good idea – in person, in texts, or by handwritten notes.

· Reach Out. Stay in touch with friends – especially if you haven’t heard from a friend for a while – a quick text of “Hoping you are well, miss you” can go a long way. There are periods in our lives when we just get overwhelmed with life – that knowing someone cares – is precious.

· Give and Take. Friendships make each other’s lives better, therefore it is always worth time and energy. A successful friendship is one where both sides put in equal effort and support.

My last thought is that no friendship is perfect. People can be picky and less comfortable accepting the imperfections of their friends. This can cause us to give up too fast on our friendships when trouble arises. You have to deal with co-workers, the boss, and the spouse, but we get to choose our friends. Don’t be afraid of the occasional tiff or disagreement. Once you make it through those times – the relationship with your friend is likely to be stronger than ever.

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