The Habits of Happy People, Part 3 of 8

friends talking together
“Without kindness, there can be no true joy.” –Thomas Carlyle

Habit #2: Social connections.

When I think of social connections and relationships, I am reminded of something that I heard early in my career.

My mentor at one of my first social works jobs was a retired Army colonel. He was 82, and he was retiring from his third career.

In preparation for his retirement celebration, we had a video produced in which those of us who worked with him spoke about what we had learned from him and how important he had been in our lives. He was also interviewed in the video, and when we played the video at his retirement celebration, his remarks were the most poignant of all.

I clearly remember him saying in the opening of the video in his clear and commanding voice, “If I had it all to do over again, I would spend more time with people.”

This man was a successful military officer who held three masters degrees. Yet he was constantly reminding us all – and me in particular – that it is our social connections that form the cornerstone of our lives.

How we treat others and how we live in relationship with others is a key factor in our happiness.

Social connection is not equivalent to being popular or well-liked by lots of people. This habit speaks to the need to spend time and foster connections with a few significant people.

Time seems to be the biggest challenge to our ability to nurture social connections. We get busy with work and family and paying the bills and maybe also going to school or engaging in professional and personal development. Who has time to just go out and do something fun with our spouse or spend time with friends when we have so much to do?

The tip here is really just to make the time. Make your friendships and your social connections a priority instead of the last thing on a long list of things to do.

Besides putting a greater priority on the relationships that we already have with our spouse or friends or family members, there is a benefit in reaching out to others outside of our social circle. As the lead quote for this blog states, “Without kindness, there can be no true joy.”

We can show kindness in so many different ways: smiling at our co-workers, letting someone merge in traffic, giving a gift or card to someone in our workplace or neighborhood who has experienced a special event or a difficulty, calling a friend or family member to let them know we’re thinking of them, not to mention all of the volunteer activities and opportunities to donate to charity that we can take part in.

Those who give to others and who spend time with people, helping others through volunteerism and involvement in activities that are meaningful to them, are happier people.

Take a second now to take a breath, maybe close your eyes, and think of one thing that you can do to nurture your social connections or show kindness. Make a commitment to do that one thing before the week is over.

Start now. Spend more time with people.

To read the other blogs in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8