I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
In many ways, this pandemic has challenged and strengthened our relationships. Frequently, due to social distancing and safety, we have had to be physically distant from dear friends and family. However, even at a distance, the connection with people we love, like dear friends, enables us to remain resilient and healthy. These strong bonds of friendship can nourish our souls, lift us up and provide support.
Did you know that friendship and socialization can also improve physical and emotional health? A 2008 Harvard School of Public Health study showed that an active social life can slow memory loss. In fact, strong social connections, even at a distance, help decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, minimize the effects of stress and depression, and even promote heart health. Have you been able to remain in touch with your friends during this difficult time? If you feel a bit out of touch, below are a variety of ways to relink with these important people. Remember, it is never too late to reconnect.
Friends play a significant role in our lives. They can make simchas (joyful occasions) more jubilant and can ease heartache and sorrow. If you have one good friend, you are indeed a rich person. So, today, let’s celebrate the beauty of friendship, and the wonderful ways they enrich our lives. In addition, we will also focus on ways to maintain relationships and stay connected in this socially distant world.
“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Celebrate the Beauty of Friendship:
1. Be Grateful for the Gift of Friendship- Before we dive in, I would like you to find a quiet place to reflect. If you can, take in a cleansing breath and close your eyes. Think about someone in your life that has been a friend to you. This might be someone you share a lifetime of experiences with or someone you only met recently. Each friendship is unique. Think about that chosen person, and recall a special memory. Reflect on the amazing bond, and allow this feeling to fill your heart with love and peace. Friendship is a glorious gift. Anytime you need a lift, repeat this simple mindfulness exercise. There is much to be grateful for.
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
2. Good Friends Can Improve Your Health- Strong social support can play a significant role in overall health. “Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.” (Mayoclinic.org) Interestingly, it is not the number of friends that are important, it is the quality that counts. So, strive for people that will be there for you through the good and the bad.
As Marlene Dietrich said, “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”
Friends help us handle stress, make us laugh and help us rebound from difficult situations and health challenges. Close friends can also provide support and needed perspective. There is nothing like a dear friend that reaches out to listen during a lonely or a painful time. The kindness of a friend can be a wonderful benefit. Think about how you can be a friend today. Who needs to hear your voice and feel your love?
“Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them… your smile, your hope, and your courage.” -Doe Zantamata
3. Thoughtful and Fun Ways to Nurture and Reconnect with Friends: It is not always easy to maintain friendships. They require care and attention. Show your friends you value them with the ideas below:
- A Little Effort Goes a Long Way- Let your friends you know you care by staying in touch. Pick up the phone and give a friend a call. It doesn’t have to be an hour long conversation- just check in and say hello. In addition, when time is tight, it is okay to email or text. Everyone likes to be remembered.
- Make a Date! – Are you having trouble connecting? Plan ahead and put a date on the calendar for a phone call, facetime call or even a virtual coffee date. Personally, one of my favorite things to do is a facetime call with a close friend in the evening. This quiet moment feels warm and intimate- like a (physically distant) slumber party.
- Plan a Zoom Trivia Night/Game Night- Share a virtual game/trivia night with friends. I have been playing mah-jongg with a group of girlfriends for 14 years. I cherish this group. During the pandemic, we have continued to play and celebrate birthdays virtually. We have leaned on each other throughout the pandemic. Here is the website I use to pay mah-jongg (there are also other sites). https://www.myjongg.net/
- Enjoy a Book Together- A good book is a healthy, welcome distraction! Discussing a book with a group of like-minded friends is a wonderful way to stay in touch and think critically. A sweet story to share… My Mom is a former teacher at the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, and now participates with other retired teachers in a virtual book club called, “The B+ Book Club.” Because many of the members do not live in Milwaukee, the virtual club enables them to see each other and connect. How wonderful!
If book clubs are not for you, then periodically share a book from your personal library with a friend. When you both complete the book, make a virtual date to discuss.
- Send a Greeting Card or Handwritten Letter- I absolutely love writing and receiving handwritten notes. A heartfelt note takes effort and receiving a special note always feels like a gift. So, pick up your quill pen and do it old school with a stamp! LOL!
- Be Forgiving- In the past, there may have been misunderstandings, hurt feelings or disagreements. Don’t let these feelings fester; we all make mistakes. Instead, be open to talking and to forgiving. Life is too short, and friendship is too precious. Be brave and make amends today.
“A true friend is someone who thinks you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” -Bernard Meltzer
- Join a Support Group- Support groups have gone virtual! I facilitate multiple virtual groups, and the sessions are meaningful and caring! Not only are they a platform to share the stress and the challenges during the pandemic, but the participation may decrease social isolation. In addition, through this experience, participants have created deep connections and friendships. We all look forward to this special time together. Please let me know if you are interested in joining a Caregiver Support Group. Click here for our website and more information: https://ovation.org/adult-day-services/community-programs-family-support/
- Use an Article/Picture on the Internet to Spur a Connection- Maybe a special image prompted a happy memory or connection. Share, and reminisce about the beautiful memory. For me, family members are also like friends. Recently, I saw an old photograph posted of my family’s childhood gathering spot, Boder’s on the River (restaurant). In a text, I shared this image with my extended family. Receiving this picture has spurred many heartwarming memories. What image are you going to share with your friends/family?
4. Looking to Meet New People?- In the age of Covid, it is important to stay physically distant, but there are still ways to meet new people and “gather” virtually. Attend virtual community events, or sign up or special activities at your synagogue. Get to know people in a new way. Call your synagogue to find out more information. Investing time virtually can build new friendships and brighten your life.
5. Try a Friendship Brain Health Exercises– Work on your brain health with these fun and simple exercises. List ten friends and write what you like about them, or recall a favorite memory. Where were you? What were you doing together? Write a paragraph about this special time. Using your senses, try to recall as many details as possible.
6. Enjoy Friendship Themed Activities:
- Watch a Movie about Friendship- While everyone has different movie tastes, here are a few friendship themed movies that will pull at your heartstrings. The three listed below are a few of my favorites.
- Hidden Figures- This 2016 hit is based on the true story of three, black NASA mathematicians. Incredible! In this trailer, watch these brilliant and inspiring women. Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK8xHq6dfAo
- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial- Enjoy Director, Steven Spielberg’s, delightful film. Grab a box of tissues before you watch. “…E.T., phone home…” Click here for the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYAETtIIClk
- Charlotte’s Web– This 2006 movie is one of my favorites! I loved the book as a child, and the movie is just as spectacular! You will laugh and cry. See how many famous voices you recognize. There are many! …Don’t be fooled, you will enjoy this movie as an adult, too! Here is a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSC7NrzDt24
- Send a Little Sunshine- Soup’s On! Make a special gesture and express your appreciation by dropping off homemade cookies or soup at someone’s door. Many families are complaining (not me, of course!) about making food for their families all the time. Why not surprise someone with homemade soup? A bonus- wave to your friends when you bring the dish to their door!
If you are at the grocery store, see if you can pick up a few items for a friend. Or, if you are able, buy flowers to show your gratitude. Did you know that Chrysanthemum flowers signify friendship, love and joy?
- Listen to Songs about Friendship and Love– I am sure you will be belting out the words to these wonderful songs. They remind us about the critical role that good friends play. These songs will touch your soul.
- Listen to the lovely song “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King (from Welcome to My Living Room). This is a beautiful version- a must watch if you are a fan! (6 minutes) Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbMI4imWFzY
- Try “People, People Who Need People” by Barbra Streisand. (3 minutes) Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOZ3SKKYKmE
- Enjoy “With a Little Help from My Friends” by Joe Cocker. I love his voice and passion! Here is an incredible 1968 version. He blows my socks off! (5 minutes) Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3LQ-FReO7Q
7. Watch a “Museum Moment”- Max Gendelman served in World War II and was captured by the Nazis after the Battle of the Bulge. In his captivity, he forged an unexpected friendship with a German soldier who deserted his army. This special Museum Moment is a story of survival and the power of friendship to protect in dark times. How have your friends protected you? Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s Education Director, Ellie Gettinger discusses this remarkable story with Max Gendelman’s daughter, Nina Edelman. Click here to watch this amazing 20 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I4i4BeRn84
“Friendship’s the wine of life.” (-Edward Young)
Friends fill our lives with meaning and love. Make sure to connect with them and show you care. In addition, please let me know if I can be a friend to you…. Do you have a question related to aging, memory loss or caregiving? I am here for you, and happy to assist! Please do not hesitate to contact me at DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,