Make Time for Family and Friends

Written by: Sabeeha Azmi

As we navigate ourselves through today’s fast-paced world, it can be easy to get caught up with studies, work, social media and various other commitments. Often, we do not realise that our days are spent on these activities as time slips by. We go on to either lose touch with our family and friends or only spend a few minutes with them. Sometimes even the time we do spend with our family and friends are filled with distractions and preoccupations with other things we want and/or need to be doing. However, despite our busy lives, taking time to connect and engage with family and friends can have significant benefits for our emotional and mental well-being and strengthen our relationships.

So what does it then mean to make time for family and friends?

Making time for family and friends means that we prioritize and dedicate time, attention and focus to spending time with people who are close and important to us. It requires us to create some time amongst our schedules to connect, interact and catch up with our loved ones through activities, conversations, outings or even simply being completely and fully present with them.

We need to actively work towards maintaining and strengthening relationships by making efforts to be more present and focused when we spend time together.

Our family and friends are an essential source of social support. This means that they are there to help us cope with stress, maintain overall well-being and help us manage difficult situations. Family and friends provide us with practical support such as help around main crunch points such as the household and transportation. They also provide emotional support such as listening to us when we have a problem or giving us a shoulder to cry on when things might get hard.

Moreover, family and friends can also offer us a sense of belonging and social connection. This allows validation of our identity and the experiences we go through each day.

When we spend time with our family and friends it can positively impact our happiness. Even if we are introverts by nature, having that social time can really boost your happiness. Harvard happiness expert, Daniel Gilbert says that “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” So if you’re thinking of an investment, spending time with loved ones is a great place to start!

When we spend time with our family and friends we are engaging in one of the best ways to create memorable experiences. When we look back at our lives, some of the most vivid memories we have are the ones spent with family. We have the good ones we talk over dinner, the funny ones leading us to have a good laugh every time it is brought up, the trips and the adventures, singing out of tune songs and eating out and the sad ones too, where we lent each other support and got through it together. Nothing can replace the time we spend with our family and friends.

As we all grow older and life gets faster and busier, the time we once had to spend with our friends diminishes. We don’t always notice it at first, but soon hanging out at friends’ houses, doing homework together gets replaced with trying to schedule a quick coffee date. When we get caught up with everything else in our lives, the phone calls and text conversations we used to have daily with friends slowly turn to every other week or sometimes a call every few months. Finding time for friends does get harder with time constraints and occupations but we can definitely try to prevent ourselves from completely losing touch!

Spending some time with our friends does not need to be a fully orchestrated event, instead, small efforts to find some pockets of time to spend with them can be cost effective, time efficient and rewards us greatly with pleasure, joy and care.

Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of spending time with family and friends in more detail. Aside from the positive impacts we have already looked at, here are some significant benefits to engaging in social time with family and friends:

1. It can improve heart health 

When we stress, it could lead to inflammation in our arteries which can lead them to get clogged causing complications. Spending time with our loved ones helps lower blood pressure and stress which helps in turn to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

2. Can improve quality of life as we grow 

The American Society of Aging states that older individuals who have strong social networks have better cognitive functioning, good episodic memory and less deficiencies with their body and brain. Making time for family and friends could contribute to these positive health effects.

3. Helps children perform better academically

Children learn vital communication skills and social skills when they spend time with friends and family. This can aid them in their education and overall social development. Spending time with children will also show them we care and can reinforce positive habits and behaviors.

4. Boost our self-confidence

Sometimes when we are feeling down and low on self-esteem, spending time with family and friends can be the perfect pick me up. Our loved ones can help us build confidence in ourselves by appreciating our talents and our abilities, by telling us we are valued and appreciated and by sometimes simply being our cheerleaders!

5. Helps us develop adaptability and resilience 

How we face our challenges and changes in life can be enhanced with a strong family bond. Surrounding ourselves with support from family and friends shows us that we belong and are needed. This provides us with a sense of purpose and meaning. This purpose and meaning can motivate and encourage us to push through, grow in the face of adversity and succeed in all aspects of our life.

Knowing and understanding the benefits of spending and making time for family and friends, it then brings us to the next question: How do we spend time with family and friends? How can we make time in our already overflowing schedules? Well, here are some practical and realistic ways to increase to your social time with your loved ones:

1. Exercise together 

This is a great way to spend our time productively and connect with family and friends. Find a kind of exercise or physical activity that everyone enjoys and make it an activity! It could be running together, going on walks or hikes, swimming or even playing a sport like badminton or tennis.

2. Recognize who we want to prioritise in life 

We can have lots and lots of friends but identifying the individuals we want to make a priority in our lives will help us plan our time more efficiently. This isn’t selfish, even though it may seem like that. Rather, it ensures that we are putting focus and effort into nurturing truly special relationships. We can still definitely spend time with everyone when we can!

3. Sharing a part of our calendar with family and friends 

Sharing calendars can help us plan better. When we can see common openings or interest in the same activities, it will help us connect and schedule time for each other better.

4. Hosting a regular event 

Family and friend traditions are always fun! Get together and decide on a day every month, where everyone comes in for a special event. This can be activities like book clubs, a movie or game night, cooking together, or going for a picnic. The planned events allow people to bring their full focus and create genuine interactions.

5. Make time spent more purposeful

It doesn’t matter how much time or how big the activity is, the most important thing is to make that specific time period purposeful.

6. Leave thoughtful messages 

Sometimes it really isn’t easy to find time to spend with family and friends. When we are going through a time period like that, a thoughtful and heartfelt message can make a world of difference. Check in on them, mention how you want to spend time together, and show interest in their lives. This can show that we truly value and care for our loved ones, even at times when we can’t meet up.

7. Celebrate traditions and each other 

Sometimes connecting can simply be through honouring traditions and each other. Tell family stories, laugh together, eat dinner together at least once a week, embrace each other, and remind each other that you love the other person. Focus on the quality of the relationship when it comes to spending time with loved ones.

The more we make time and interact with people who are motivational, authentic, genuine, the more we feel energised and supported. Spending time with family and friends greatly improves our mental well-being, our relationships and our physical health. With our loved ones, our good times are made better, so do not miss out on your opportunity to build and maintain a strong social support!