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Good companions

by Adam Clark 11. October 2010 16:46

For me, one of the most exciting developments in the field of psychology has been the growth in recent years of interest in wellbeing and happiness. Until the mid 1990s, most of the academic study of psychology tended to focus on people’s problems. Now there are a number of well-respected academics who study wellbeing and seek to draw lessons from what makes those who lead happy lives so content.

From my reading of these studies, it seems that the single most important factor in wellbeing, happiness and, indeed, good health, is a connection with a good circle of friends. Those who enjoy such warm, human relationships, and especially those who are blessed with a loving relationship with an intimate partner, fare better on all measures of wellbeing than those who go through life alone.

Some of my clients lead lives that would be the envy of many, with fantastic jobs and a high income. Despite the challenge, responsibility and money that come through their work, some of these people come home to an empty flat every night, where they can end up feeling miserable and isolated.

I am convinced that the most important priority should be our relationships with those around us. No matter how extraordinary our lives, or our accomplishments, or even our dreams, we need trusted confidants to share them with. We thrive on people around us with whom we can cry, dance, laugh and love. I am blessed with a partner who loves me and delights in sharing his life with me. I dedicate this article to him, and to my parents, who celebrate their ruby wedding anniversary this week.

Gay couple
Friendship is so important

Making friends… and keeping them

1. Do things

Shared activity is a good way to meet people, and to see them as they really are. Taking part in some form of activity is the best way I know of to widen your circle of friends, or to meet a potential partner. Think about your hobbies and interests. What can you do that’s related to your interests that might bring you into contact with other people? Are there any societies or clubs you could join? What about classes or courses? If you’re in a relationship or have some good friends, arrange to do things together. Shared activity is one of the most important ways in which we bind ourselves to other people.

2. Be interested

One of Dale Carnegie’s ways of winning friends and influencing people is to ask others questions, and to be genuinely interested in their answers. Most people like talking about themselves so asking questions is a good way to get to know a stranger. It’s also important in our more intimate relationships; we can so easily drift into assuming that we know what our partner thinks, wants or likes. When was the last time you asked them? You might be surprised at the response.

3. Be kind

It saddens me when I see people putting down those they love. It seems to be a bad habit that it’s easy to get into. Even when we do favours for people, we can sometimes do them with bad grace. Paulo Coelho talks about the concept of a Favour Bank. If we’ve made deposits in the form of kindness and favours for other people, when we need something, others are more likely to give us what we need. This builds mutual trust and respect, the glue that binds people together, whether they are partners or friends. What can you do today to be kind to those you love, and those you’d like to know better?

4. Encourage others to make the most of who they are

We all know people who seem incapable of sharing our dreams, people who are stuck in negative mindsets and ways of seeing the world. Your true friends are those who genuinely want the best for you. What can you do to encourage those you know to blossom and fulfil their potential?

Gay couple
Encourage others to make the most of who they are

5. Develop your passions

Passionate people are interesting. They always have something to say, and to share with the world. We lose ourselves when we engage in activity we feel passionate about. Even if you’re very busy, take a few minutes to think about what you believe in most strongly. What can you do to express these passions?

Friends and relationships really do matter. Don’t kid yourself that you can put things off because you’re really busy at the moment. Do something today to connect with those you love, or to meet other people. Life is so much better when it’s shared. With good companions.

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