Today’s post is from Shasta Nelson, life coach and founder of GirlFriendCircles.com, the only online community that matches new friends offline by connecting circles of women in local areas. Shasta blogs weekly about women’s friendships at GirlFriendCircles.com/Blog and is hosting friendship events in Chicago, San Francisco and L.A this month. If her name sounds familiar, it may be because she was a guest on the CBS Morning Show yesterday!
Here’s Shasta’s story:
When I moved to San Francisco, I had an amazing circle of friends spread across the country but soon realized that as much as I loved Facebook and my Iphone-I certainly didn’t want all my relationships to be limited to them. I reached a point where I wanted to make new memories with friends, rather than the reporting of life or re-living of the past that we tend to do with "those we used to be close to."
I needed present friends. I needed local friends. I needed new friends.
Normalize New Friends
Those are hard words to say though, for some reason. We have this stigma that to admit needing friends might somehow be misinterpreted as saying "No one likes me" or "I have no friends." It taps into all our insecurities, fears and any shame we have over any relationship that didn’t last forever.
In fact, most friendships don’t last forever. Reported in September’s MORE magazine, Sally Koslow says that "the average person now replaces half her friends every seven years." At first I gasped when I read that, and then I nodded in recognition.
The truth is that there are multiple times in our lives when we need to expand our circle of friends! Tons of times! Whether it’s a move, a break-up/divorce, a realization that all your friends have kids/are single/moved away, a change in jobs or decision to work from home, a life-changing experience, a new hobby, a shift in life focus when our kids move out or we retire…. The list could go on-and-on! None of those reasons are a judgment against us! They are simply stages of life that remind us that while a couple of our friendships might prevail through differences, the truth is that we all need to be constantly replenishing our circle of friends to ensure it’s meaningful for who we are now.
Need New Friends
There have been numerous reports linking a circle of supportive friends to lowering stress levels, increasing happiness, prevention of diseases, faster recovery rates for healing and greater chance of reaching life goals. Add to that the reports that relationships improve your odds of survival by 50 percent, and we have a serious reminder that our friendships are not a nice-to-have, but a necessity!
The research published in July in the journal PLoS Medicine, compared low social connectedness to have the same health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, to being an alcoholic, as more harmful than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity!
I’m not a big fan of telling people how many friends they need. We’re all different, but studies seem to suggest people are happiest with somewhere between 5-10 meaningful friendships. And other reports show that half of us have less than 2 people we’d call real friends. There seems to be some discrepancy between our experience and our ideal?
Note that there is a difference between how many people you’re friendly with versus how many people you call a friend. Huge difference. It’s common to assume we have lots of friends, but when we examine it we realize we simply know a lot of friendly people through work and school. An easy test for me is to ask myself "How many people would I feel comfortable asking for a ride to the airport?" or "Who is in my life that I could text last-minute to see if they were available to hang out without it feeling weird?" Easy things-we’re not even talking about taking care of your kids when they’re sick!
Invite New Friends
Recognizing who is in our circle and acknowledging if, and when, we need to invite more meaningful friendships into our lives is part of taking care of our wellbeing.
I’ll be the first to admit, it was often more tempting to call an established friend and tell her about my need to go shopping than it was to call up a potential friend to see if she wanted to go shopping. In the beginning it was less meaningful to talk to a new friend than to call someone who already knew me, but I held the truth that, like dating, I simply had to put the consistent time into my new relationships to create those bonds.
It didn’t "just happen." Friendships don’t just show up. Fun people might. But turning them into friendships simply is an investment we have to make.
And now, every Tuesday night, I have girls’ night with the same four women in San Francisco. I know who to call for a ride to the airport and who to text for a last-minute get together!
So, now, my passion is helping foster that process for everyone else! Do it for your health & happiness!
On Wednesday, The Friendship Doctor (Irene) will be posting my thoughts here, with cross-posts on the blogs of other members of The Friendship Circle too.
The Friendship Circle (a network of five organizations committed to celebrating the power of female friendships) is partnering in September for a Month of Friendship. Visit these Friendship Circle websites daily in September for more inspiration and information:
- The Friendship Blog – by psychologist, professor of psychiatry, and author, Dr. Irene S. Levine (The Friendship Doctor), author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Breakup with Your Best Friend. Follow Irene on Twitter.
- GirlfriendCelebrations – premier source of girls night ideas on the web. Founded by friends Dawn Williams Bertuca and Tina VanZant Bishop. Girlfriend Celebrations on Facebook and Twitter
- GirlFriendCircles.com - only online community that matches new friends offline by connecting circles of women in local areas, by Shasta Nelson. On Facebook and Twitter.
- Girlfriendology.com - online community for women based on inspiration, appreciation and celebration of female friendship. Created by Debba Haupert. On Facebook and Twitter.
- MWF Seeking BFF - chronicles the author’s search for a new best friend after moving to a new city for love, by Rachel Bertsche.