Reconnecting With Friends Can Help You Feel Less Regret

Rekindling bonds can make life feel full.

Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s (almost) daily guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.

Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Every Monday through Friday, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.

Today’s habit: Reconnecting IRL with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

For whenever you’re feeling: ready to get reacquainted with someone you miss dearly.

What it is: I live with many regrets, like not going to prom or eating Kraft Dinner for three consecutive nights last week. A major regret that I’m reminded of daily (gee thanks, Facebook) is the amount of friends I’ve accidentally ghosted. Life got too busy, on my end or theirs, and now I only see them via their social media posts.

It’s obviously not deliberate. Everybody is overwhelmed all the time and we barely have time for ourselves and our immediate circles, let alone others. Like many, I’m saddled with guilt over letting bonds with people I care about fade away. But it’s not entirely our fault.

Whether your social circle is big or small, chances are there are people on its periphery you wish you knew as well as you used to.
Whether your social circle is big or small, chances are there are people on its periphery you wish you knew as well as you used to.

Research shows there’s a mental limit on how many people we can feel deeply connected to; federal data indicates most Canadians have a squad of around five close friends and the famous “Dunbar’s Number” theory suggests 150 friends is the cap for our social networks.

However, if someone from your past is weighing heavily on your mind, maybe it’s time to include them in your numbers once again. And given the festive season, reconnecting over the holidays might be the best time to do it.

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How it can help:

The holidays can be rough. Many people are dealing with loneliness, family issues, or painful memories. Getting a message from someone who cares about you, even if the relationship is distant, can be appreciated as an act of kindness.

The benefits go both ways for you and your friend. Friendships have a big impact on wellbeing and how well one copes with stress. It’s difficult to make new friends, so why not nurture the ones you already have?

How to get started:

First, establish that the desire to reconnect is reciprocated with a no-pressure greeting to your friend. If they reply and seem interested, suggest meeting up with them. Don’t get down on yourself if your message goes unread; again, people are busy and may not have the time. Alternatively, sometimes people prefer for former friends to stay in the past, and that’s a completely reasonable decision to make.

I am one of those people you meet who says, “We should get coffee sometime!” and never follows through. To undercut that tendency, make specific plans with the person you want to meet.

Setting a date, time, and place to see each other will prevent either of you from flaking.
Setting a date, time, and place to see each other will prevent either of you from flaking.

Take it easy for your first meet-up. There’s no need to rush into BFF status or catch each other up on every little thing that happened between you. Low-commitment friendships are just as important to have in your social network: a 2014 study on social wellbeing suggests that having many people you know casually can make you feel happier and like you belong.

Like all things, friendship needs maintenance. After the initial meeting, it can be easy to lapse into silence once again. Try to carve out a small amount of time in your schedule to reply to those you want to stay in touch with. I often feel swamped by the amount of online conversations I keep track of, which leads me to avoid them altogether. For my schedule, I’ve found it manageable to set aside 15 minutes a week to respond to unopened text threads.

How it makes us feel: When the regret over a lost friendship lifts, it can feel like there’s one less thing to worry about. And along with our other small habit tips, you can make great strides towards reducing the unneeded stress in your life.

Reconnecting reminds us why this friend was in our life in the first place. Even if the bond doesn’t become what it once was, re-building that connection can bring newfound joy and fulfilment to your life.

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