One of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud, says that our brains need three things to survive: oxygen, glucose, and relationships. We can have a pretty good intake of air and we rarely skip a meal, so the first two components are typically there—but do you have healthy relationships in your life?
In a world full of friends and followers on social media, I fear many are so lacking in having healthy, face-to-face relationships. We go through life feeling constantly connected, but when life gets out of balance and trouble comes, we can be totally derailed and sidelined with no one to actually reach out to. Experts feel we’re losing our ability to have face-to-face conversations, which so enhances relationships and our emotional health.
As we head into a busy fall, with back to school and new routines, consider making some changes to strengthen your relational health.
Relationships take time.
When September rolls around, we can feel like we’re off to the races. Be intentional with your schedule and with those around you. If you have a family or are married, try having meals together. If you’re single, find some great friends to do life with and carve out intentional time together. Try joining a small group where you can learn and grow together with others.
Relationships take focus.
We can tend to think that taking some sips of texting and posting can equate into big gulps of real relational connection. But that's not reality. Relationships take time, presence, and focus. Try asking interesting, open-ended questions to those in your life, and respond with listening and understanding. Too often, it’s easier to jump into solutions-mode in a conversation and miss out on really hearing and understanding someone. Believe it or not, we don’t have to be the person with the answers every time.
Relationships take intentionality.
My newly married niece had her immediate family over for dinner a while back and she placed a bowl by the entry way for all family members to deposit their cell phones before dinner. Most complied. This one I struggle with, as there is always a score to check, an email to respond to, and something dinging for intention. Turn off the dings. Try to have three “digital-free spaces” for conversation and relationships:
- The Dining Room – When people are sitting down and eating together, try to have uninterrupted time to talk and listen to how others are doing.
- The Bedroom – If you're married, this is a big one. Scrolling social media while lying in bed next to each other does not equate to connection. Use the end of your day to truly connect and process your day together, without your phone as a distraction. And even if you aren't married, you'll unwind and sleep better if your phone isn't within reach.
- The Car – We’re supposed to put our cell phones away when we're driving, of course. But if we’re with others, travel time can be a valuable time for conversation and building relationships.
Spending quality time together, even if it’s only 15 minutes, can add enormous benefit to you, your friends, and family members. So, what do you do to stay connected with others in your life, and what changes can you make today to deepen those relationships?