As important as it is to reduce waste, shop second-hand, and support sustainable policies, one of the biggest ways that we, as individuals, can have a positive impact on the planet is through our relationships. Positive relationships make us happier, reduce stress, provide purpose, and help us live longer. One study even suggested that a lack of social relationships is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
That said, relationships aren’t supportive and uplifting all on their own. You have to work to make them that way. There are many ways to build strong relationships, but I chose just a few to work on over the past month. Here are my three friendship/platonic relationship goals for this month and how I did with them.
1. Remember birthdays. I had a lot of coworkers with birthdays in February, so I made it a point to keep track of these and send everyone well wishes on their special day. I don’t think it’s always necessary to buy a gift or make a cake. This can create a lot of unnecessary waste, especially at the office. You might not know your coworkers well enough to give them exactly what they want or need, and treats have a way of inviting the use of disposable plates, napkins and cutlery. Just a simple “happy birthday,” whether it’s verbal or written, can go a long way with someone who might not necessarily expect you to remember their birthday. It’s such a simple way to bring a little joy into someone’s life, and we could all use a little more of that.
2. Reconnect with old friends. There’s quite a few friends that I have lost touch with over the years. Adult friendships can be hard to maintain–people get busy, move away, and start families–but there are some friendships that are worth the effort. I recently texted a few friends that I haven’t seen in a while, and it felt really good to reach out. I even made plans to visit one friend who lives a couple hours away from me, and I could not be more excited to see her again!
3. Be generous with others. I was originally thinking about this idea in terms of helping people, and although I believe that helping people is extremely important, I also found myself following a slightly different interpretation. If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you may be familiar with fundamental attribution error. This is the idea that we tend to explain other people’s behaviors in terms of internal characteristics, but we tend to explain our own behavior based on external circumstances. For example, if a colleague is late to work, you might think it’s because that person is lazy. But if you are late to work, you might blame it on all the traffic that morning. I used this concept to work on being more generous in my view of others. It’s so easy to discount someone based on their actions, but the reality is, we usually have no idea what the circumstances are surrounding other people’s behavior. Maybe the guy who cut me off in traffic was taking someone to the hospital. Maybe the co-worker who hasn’t answered my email is facing an important deadline and feeling overwhelmed. Yes, it’s possible that some people are just rude, but more often than not, there are reasons behind people’s actions, and I think it’s important to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I think these goals have helped me to grow at least a little over the past month, and perhaps that’s the only way we can grow; little by little. Next month, I’ll be focusing on a whole new topic as part of my year-long project to make the planet a better place. I hope you’ll stay tuned!