The university that I work for hosts a Farmer’s Market every second Tuesday during the spring and fall months. It is fun to walk by the various booths selling fruits, vegetables, honey, dates, specialty chocolates, homemade salsas, vegan and gluten-free foods, and much more. I especially enjoy the little email newsletters that are sent out the day before the Farmer’s Market. They are full of healthy lifestyle tips, lists of in-season produce, vendor highlights, and even healthy challenges.
This week’s newsletter included Five Tips for Five Years – Cultivate Healthy Relationships, and I wanted to share and add a few words of my own to each point.
1. Build strong friendships
It is important to meet new people and nurture existing relationships. PsychCentral has a fascinating article on the importance of friendship by Jane Collingwood. It discusses how research is now beginning to demonstrate what ancient wisdom already knew: “Friendships are vital for wellbeing”!
Yet strong, long-lasting friendships are not usually made overnight. They take time and energy to grow. So make a decision today to intentionally nurture the relationships you already have with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. And don’t be afraid to go out and meet new people. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, have dozens of friends or a few close ones, friendships are important and worth your time.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV
2. Spend quality time together.
Share favorite activities or try something new. As mentioned before, relationships require time and commitment, but there may not be enough hours in the day to give everyone in your life the same amount of your time. It is important to prioritize your relationships: God, immediate family, close friends, extended family, acquaintances, etc. Then choose to spend quality time. Perhaps it is going to church once a week, planning a biweekly volleyball game or hike with friends, or holding a monthly family get-together or picnic. Maybe it is sending out birthday and holiday cards, mailing hand-written letters, texting a friend, or calling your mom or dad just to chat for awhile. Do a favorite hobby with your kids or try something brand new.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, ESV
3. Communicate effectively
Communicate effectively with nonverbal communication, active listening and emotional awareness. Communication is not just about what or how much we say; how well we listen, observe non-verbal cues, and remember are also crucial for effective communication. MindTools has a nice article on active listening and how to become an active listener. It really all boils down to paying attention to the other person and treating them with the respect you would expect in return.
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”. – James 1:19, ESV
4. Use laughter and play
Use laughter and play to build and maintain successful relationships. Humor cannot fix everything, but it is a powerful tool in your relationship toolbox. It can help diffuse conflicts, smooth over differences or awkward moments, and strengthen bonds. You may have heard the old adage: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Happiness, laughter, and play can transform a relationship.
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” – Proverbs 15:13, ESV
5. Learn how to deal with conflict
Strive to understand differences, reduce stress in the moment and acknowledge emotions. Conflicts are never fun, often unexpected, and despite our best efforts, sometimes unavoidable. Whether a conflict arises in your marriage, family, close circle of friends, or co-workers, it is important to know how to handle it. There is all kind of advice out there on dealing with conflicts depending upon the type of relationship, but most tend to agree on these points: stay calm, try to understand the other person’s point-of-view (even if you do not agree), identify the problem and work out a solution together if possible, and sometimes (depending on the situation) choose to be the more mature person and let it go.
Ancient wisdom and modern science agree: Friendships are vital for wellbeing. Click To Tweet
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:18, ESV
Obviously, these five tips are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to building healthy relationships, but after evaluating my own relationships, I have to agree that these areas are fundamental. What are other ways you have strengthened your relationships?