Relationships

5 ways to make more time for your friends

©iStockphoto.com/digitalskillet Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/digitalskillet Author: Canadian Living

Relationships

5 ways to make more time for your friends

The older we get, the more commitments we seem to have. Spouses, children and careers fill our days, leaving little time for other pursuits. Fitting in time for friends is often one of the first things to fall to the bottom of our to-do lists. And getting out and meeting new people can be even more daunting.

Still, no matter how busy you are it's always important to maintain -- and expand -- your social circle.

Judi Siklos, a Toronto-based psychotherapist, offers her wise advice on creating more time for friendships.

"Being able to spend time with your friends and having enjoyment in your life is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress," she says. "It's important for everyone -- but especially for busy people -- to carve out time for their friends." Siklos shares five ways for doing just that.

1. Get together to work on common goals
Many of us set goals this year to get in better shape. However, with your tight schedule and endless responsibilities, meeting that goal can seem nearly impossible. Add fitting in time for friends to your list and going to the gym just gets pushed further out of mind. Rather than having to choose between your weekly workouts or seeing a friend, why not do both?

Team up with a fitness-minded friend and work on meeting that get-fit goal together, advises Siklos. "If you do a weekly class or a weekly workout with your friend, then you're getting the double benefit of meeting another goal in your life as well as spending time with a friend," she says.

2. Schedule time for friends into your calendar
How many times have we told our friends that we'll get together soon or that we'll give them a call sometime? It's easy for these promises to get lost in the weekly chaos. Siklos suggests making these get-togethers a priority.

"When someone has a doctor's appointment or their kid has a soccer game, they don't waffle and say 'I'm busy, I can't do it.' They do it because it's a priority," she says.

So treat your friends, and more importantly yourself, as a priority. "By treating yourself as a priority you make time for the things that are important to you," says Siklos.

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3. Find common ground and see each other more often
Many of us share a lot of common ground with our friends -- otherwise we wouldn't be friends, right? Use this to your advantage, suggests Siklos.

"Whether it's your kids having a play date, or you both have pets and you go for a walk together, those are things you have to do in your day," she explains. Find out what you and your friends have in common in your days and combine your task lists in order to eke out quality time during a busy week.

4. Branch out and try new things
As we progress through life it's easy to become comfortable with our current circle of friends. However, it's important to not only maintain your current social circle, but to also branch out from it.

"Most research will show that a truly healthy person will have a mix of old friends and new friends," Siklos says. "I think that from my clients' experiences -- as well as my own -- when you go and do new things and meet new people, yes sometimes it's frightening or sometimes it can cause anxieties, but it's actually really beneficial to broaden your circle."

5. Use any occasion as an excuse to get together

Getting together with a friend doesn't always have to be the social event of the year. Sometimes a nice, quiet evening in together can be just as beneficial (if not more so) than a night on the town. Siklos suggests doing something as simple as inviting a friend over to watch the Oscars or the Super Bowl. Ask your spouse to look after the kids so you can enjoy some time with your friend. Even just a few hours will give you both a boost and allow you to reconnect, she says.

Friends are important to our well-being, and it's beneficial to maintain those connections despite busy lives and overloaded schedules. Good friends will be around through the good and the bad, and will offer support no matter what you're going through.

With good friends "your positives and joys in life are magnified and your sorrows are shared," says Siklos.

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5 ways to make more time for your friends

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