Ever since I slid down the birth canal and entered life in this body, I’ve wanted friends. Close, playful, deep, energetic, creative, funny loving friends. I am fully aware this is not a quirk of mine. Us human beings are social creatures. We may savor our alone time to reflect, recharge, and enjoy our thoughts and feelings, but being with those we care about can bring a sparkle and delight all its own. It brings nourishment to our souls, warmth to our hearts, and often clarity and wisdom to our minds.
Friendship is deeply healing on every level of life, especially if we ever experienced any trauma or were hurt by someone we considered a close friend. The positive feelings that flow between close friends set in motion a magical chain reaction of biochemical changes in our body that literally transform us. Just remember the last time you felt really confused or desperate or discouraged and it was the warm or direct words of a friend that completely changed your reality.
Researchers such as Barbara Frederickson at University of Michigan and Rollin McCraty at HeartMath Institute have shown that emotions like happiness, gratitude and a sense of meaningfulness not only feel good in our bodies, but they also give us the energy to do great things, even beyond what we might think is possible. How do we do it?
- Ask yourself, “What makes my heart sing?”
What in your work inspires you, and what has become dry and stale? What in your relationships inspires you, and what has grown stagnant or contentious? What in your personal life gives you great fulfillment, and what has become routine?
By reflecting on these questions, you’ll give yourself a jump-start to a new level of inspiration, energy, vitality and purpose in your life.
- Be open and excited to explore new things.
Isn’t the essence of great friendship the joy of doing unique, fun, crazy, adventurous and memorable things together? Of course you can also be great friends with someone and just sit around the house talking. Especially when you’re talking about things that really matter to your heart and soul. So if talking deeply makes your heart sing, talk about things that really matter, that stretch the edges of your comfort zone, that challenge fears or doubts or yours.
An attitude of willingness — openness to all that life brings — encourages qualities like curiosity, humility, flexibility, and receptivity. Dr. Brene Brown has said that “vulnerability [is] uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. To be human is to be in vulnerability.” We’re shown a way forward that we might never have come up with on our own. This is the inspirational power of willingness.
- Be playful …. seriously.
Now that you’ve settled into adulthood and are doing all the right things for your career and (future) family, remember not to lose the playfulness that made childhood carefree, adventure-filled and spontaneous. Playfulness brings flexibility and the ability to flow with life, instead of resisting, collapsing, or retreating. Believe me, these qualities get even more important with the years.
Playfulness is the kinetic energy that ignites creativity and attracts more inspiration. When you remember not to take life too seriously, you avoid needless dramas when a situation requires calm. Laughing at ourselves over our limitations and our humanness — these are hallmarks of playfulness.
- Be yourself — everyone else is already taken.
Oscar Wilde made that great statement. Why not let the example of others inspire you as you find your own way in life? The ability to be oneself, transparently and unashamedly, is one of the most important ingredients of an inspired life. It attracts people to you like bees to honey…. the right people that are aligned with you. Authenticity also attracts the power to re-create ourselves in the face of crises and challenges. Being authentic empowers us to say what needs to be said, and do what needs to be done. Living authentically brings a refreshing breeze to stale relationships and worn-out attitudes, a new freedom to be who we really are. Just imagine the kind of friendships you’ll have as you become more and more of who you really are, and attract the very people doing the same thing?
- Do something that inspires you every day.
I have a significant network of close real-life friends, and thousands of social media friends. While most of those I know through social media I have never met in person, they are no less special to me. I want to inspire them, to help them, to learn from them. Just as I do with my “real-life” friends who I can spend regular time with. So ask yourself — Are you singing enough? Dancing enough? Playing with your pets or your kids enough? Are you taking walks or hikes or bike rides in nature enough? Are you still reading poetry that inspires you? Do you make time for a great conversation with a close friend? If the answer is “no” to very many of these inspiration questions, your inspiration quotient is probably not nearly what it could be. You can change it!
- Be grateful for each friend you have in your life.
There’s so much beauty in life, in nature, why not go on a gratitude hunt? Seriously … make a list of everything in your life you’re grateful for. The people you love, the heroes you admire, particular places you love to visit, favorite activities, favorite music that makes your heart sing …. come on, this is getting fun! Creating a gratitude list has its own momentum that becomes irresistible.
Sure, your mind can come in with doubt and negativity. But the world can do that, so why bother?!
Awaken inspiration in your life every day and see what happens. See what new friends appear, what new opportunities, what new insights can turn a tough problem into a creative challenge. And then appreciate all your newfound wisdom and energy. You rock!
Bruce Cryer is a renaissance man – entrepreneur, former CEO of HeartMath, mentor, writer, speaker, photographer, and actor/singer/dancer on Broadway. He is co-author of From Chaos to Coherence, and the acclaimed Harvard Business Review article, “Pull the Plug on Stress”. A cancer and staph infection survivor, he is singing and dancing again on two titanium hips and enjoying rich multi-generational relationships. He is the founder of the innovative business network, Vybrato, and co-CEO of WholeLife Network.