Being present sounds like the easiest thing. But just sitting there instead of checking our phones, getting passed the initial awkwardness to begin a conversation, and carving out time from our busy to do list, is hard. But all our relationships, romantic or otherwise, can only thrive if we teach ourselves to be present in the moment.
I love a to-do list. Having a plan and knowing what needs to be done next is great for me. This trait is good in many ways. For example, it helps me to focus and get things done. However, like all personality traits, there are also ‘side effects’.
This can cause me to focus too much on the next thing. I say to myself ‘right, after I have done this I need to do that, then go here and…’. So I end up not being present in the moment, and I focus on the next ‘task’ rather than the person in front of me.
Even people who would say they are spontaneous and don’t like to-do lists, can forget to make time for friends, or meet up with specific people, and invest in their relationships because there is no structure. We can all focus on other things in the busyness of life, and unintentionally not invest in our relationships and friendships.
So what can we do? Try to cut things out? Make more time? Maybe, but this is often hard to do and we end up feeling just as busy and guilty about not meeting up with people.
This really hit me a while ago when I was listening to a random podcast.
Essentially, a mum who was starting her own business said she felt guilty when she was at work because she felt she should be spending more time with her kids. And when she was with her kids she felt guilty because she should be spending time getting stuff done at work.
Well why don’t you learn to focus on the moment and be present?
Someone in the podcast said to her: Well why don’t you learn to focus on the moment and be present? Instead of worrying and longing to be somewhere else, focus on the people you are with. Invest in what’s going on there and then.
I thought this was a challenge for me too. Instead of worrying too much about the next thing, or the things I’m not doing, I decided I had to learn to focus on the people I was with.
Relationship Are The Priority
Whilst learning to be more present with friends, trying to stop my mind from wondering to tasks I need to complete next, I came across a very interesting article.
An 80-year long study from the University of Harvard found, to the researchers’ surprise, that strong meaningful relationships prolong life, increase life satisfaction, and improve mental and physical health.
You can read the article in full here, but it emphasises the importance of relationships. For example, it says:
‘Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.’
‘The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health…Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too… The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80’.
It’s fascinating to see that scientific research also stresses how important relationships are
Now, I truly believe my faith and God’s word stresses the importance of relationships, and we find true fulfilment and happiness by investing in our relationship with Him and others. (Read Reflecting God’s Image Is Found In Plurality.) It’s fascinating to see that modern scientific research also stresses how important relationships are. The article also said:
‘Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier,…and the loners often died earlier. “Loneliness kills… It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”’
Being In The Moment
It confirmed to me again that trying to exercise, develop skills for my job, doing life admin, are all important and necessary, but I can’t let it drown out the effort I put into my relationships.
There is something in us which craves intimacy and closeness, and it can only be filled by relationships
Forcing myself to talk and really listen, and not think of the next task that needs to be done. Resisting the urge to pick up my phone and look through social media when I am with people. Making time to pick up the phone or send a text so I can catch-up with an old friend. When I’m talking to someone I really need to look, listen, and engage with them.
There is something in us which craves intimacy and closeness, and it can only be filled by relationships, and I don’t just mean romantic ones, but by having close friendships. We need to learn to invest and be in the moment and avoid the ever tempting distractions.
We can often assume our relationships will just be strong no matter what. But they only become strong when we invest, make time for the little conversations and the deep ones, and make time for each other.
Imagine if we learnt to be more present and to prioritise relationships alongside all the other things in our lives, like our career, improving our physical health, etc. We may not only find more joy in our lives and support during the bad times, but be glad that we can be there and be a blessing for those people who are close to us. (Read I Wouldn’t Have Survived Without My Church Family.)
What is the one thing you can do today to invest in a friendship? Comments welcomed below.