Since the start of COVID-19, we’ve been forced to reflect upon past lifestyle choices, values and goals. We’ve been confronted with the eternal question: what does it mean to live a truly meaningful life?
We’ve had time to think about the people we spend our time with. One important change has been the shift away from collecting “friends,” towards finding and developing meaningful connections. A New York Times article by Kate Murphy titled “How to Rearrange Your Post-Pandemic ‘Friendscape’” explained how “Covid-19 provided an excuse to shed unsatisfying and unfulfilling relationships, while giving people the time and space to strengthen bonds with those they truly care about.”
And so while we all have friends – old classmates, a friend of a friend you’ve added on Facebook, those people you bump into once a month at the supermarket – a meaningful connection is extra special as it’s based on authenticity, rapport and intentionality.
As humans, we’re biologically wired to connect with people. Ensuring our connections are healthy and meaningful is one of the best things we can do for our mental health and emotional wellbeing. One famous study on physical and mental health, The Harvard Study of Development (ongoing for the last 80 years), found that “close relationships” keep people happy and delay physical and mental decline. We rely on the people around us to feel a sense of belonging, acceptance, understanding.
But pursuing high quality friendships isn’t necessarily easy, which is why for so long we’ve made do with more casual, cursory relationships. Developing a meaningful connection with someone takes time and requires empathy, engagement, and consistently high quality interactions.
How do you know you’ve made a meaningful connection? Here are a few pointers:
You share common interests and values
You’re friends because of something more than a geographical or organizational tie. You’re attuned to this person because you share similar interests and can talk easily about a variety of things.
You can meet people with common interests by joining clubs, taking up a new hobby and being open to new experiences.
You can talk about your vulnerabilities
As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.” We yearn for true connection and understanding – someone sensitive to your needs and emotions who cares about your wellbeing.
You challenge and motivate each other
You and your friend aren’t afraid to challenge and push each other to meet your full potential (while still respecting each other’s boundaries!). They’re the person with whom you want to share your victories.
You have fun and can laugh together
Shared laughter is important as it reflects a shared sense of humour and similar worldview. Having fun will strengthen your relationship and bring you closer together.
These types of connections don’t just appear overnight, they take work. For one thing, in our social media age it’s more important than ever to be proactive, go out and connect in-person.
While some friendships are brittle, unable to withstand the stresses and strains of the modern world, these deeper connections aren’t easily broken. The extra effort required to forge meaningful bonds always proves totally and completely worth it.