I got to know Rachel Bertsche because I stumbled upon her blog, MWF Seeking BFF, which is all about the challenge of making friends as an adult. Making and keeping friends is is one of the most common, and also most significant, happiness challenges; friendship is very, very important to happiness, but as adults, we often don’t have the time and opportunities to build and strengthen those relationships.
Rachel’s book, MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, just hit the shelves.
In it, she talks about her adventures as she tried to meet and make friends after she moved to a new city. The relationship between friendship and happiness is a constant theme in the book, so I was eager to here more about her views on hapipness.
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Rachel: Spending time with friends. Even if I’m exhausted and want nothing more than to go home and crash on the couch, when I force myself to go out and spend an hour or so with friends (and this time together can take any form—a dinner date, going for a walk, even watching TV side by side) I feel so much happier afterwards. In fact, a 2004 study found that 85% of adults feel happier, less stressed and more energized after spending time with friends—and yet 62% of those people said they spent less time with friends than ever before.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
Oversleeping! I work from home, which makes it a lot easier to hit the snooze button over and over. Now I do it almost every morning and can’t even remember it when I finally wake up. I loved sleeping in as a teenager (who didn’t?) but now whenever I wake up an hour later than planned, I have that strange nagging feeling as if I’ve forgotten to do something. And I feel like I’ve missed a vital hour of the day. When I wake up on the earlier side, having still gotten enough sleep, I always have a better “time to face the day!” feeling when I wake up.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a particular book that has stayed with you?
I’m a huge fan of The Happiness Project (both book and blog) [awww, thanks Rachel!] so I try to keep many of your lessons in mind, including to “Be Rachel.” These days, a mantra I am trying to adopt is “Do One Thing at a Time.” I find that so often my mind is working on overdrive, and I’ll start one project, get distracted, start another, and forget to go back to the first. It only serves to make me more overwhelmed. This mantra is still new, so I’m not sure if it is contributing more to my happiness yet, but I think it will.
The happiness-related book passage that has always stuck with me is from AJ Jacobs’s The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. In it, he tells the fable of a Middle Eastern potentate who called all the wise men of his kingdom together and tasked them with gathering all the world’s knowledge in one place. In the end, that knowledge came down to one sentence: This too shall pass. I like to remember that if, as Jacobs says, the Black Plague passed, and the Hundred Years’ War passed, then when I’m having hard times, those will pass too.
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
Not to harp on the friends point, but having spent so much time researching and focusing on friendship, I’m especially attuned to it. And what I see people doing that adds a lot to their happiness is making time for friendships. Since I work from home, I spend a lot of time in the nearby coffee shop. I love watching people get together for a quick catch-up. When they greet each other, their faces light up, they hug and laugh, and they just look so happy! I often feel like I’m in that scene of Love Actually, when Hugh Grant is watching everyone in the airport reunite and he says “Love, actually, is all around us.” As I write this, there is a group of friends—men and women—laughing together at the table next to me. Even watching them gives me a little happiness boost.
On the flip side, not making time for friends can really detract from happiness. Research shows that during our teenage years, we spend nearly one-third of our time with friends. For the rest of our lives, the average time spent with friends is less than 10%. That’s a pretty big jump, and can make us feel lonely or unfulfilled. If you are married with kids and you have a job and an endless list of errands to run, it’s likely that time with pals slips off the to-do list. It can feel more like a luxury than a necessity. But just a little bit of time with the gals (or guys) can go a long way towards our overall health and happiness.