Do you ever feel that you’re rushed off your feet so much that you can’t spend quality time with friends and family? Modern-day lifestyles are demanding. We want it all: great jobs, wonderful relationships, fun freetime… but it’s so hard to fit it all in. Consequently, we often neglect things, especially those around us. So how can you keep your loved ones happy, even when you’re crazy busy?
Clearly you can’t be in 2 places at once, so you can’t hope to attend every weekly get-together with friends if you’re often in another city on business or stuck in meetings all evening. Similarly, taking the dog for an hour-long walk might not be an option if you need to be sitting at your computer working all day. It’s not just the 2 legged ‘important others’ that we neglect when we’re trying to do too much after all! Before you know it, you’ve missed countless bedtime stories, nights out and daily dog cuddles.
Thankfully though, it’s not always necessary to sacrifice one thing to maintain another. Now, I’m not saying that this is ideal, because obviously when something matters to you, you invest in it. However, sometimes we do find ourselves in periods of overwork and overwhelm. It’s in those periods that you can get by with some imaginative, micro moments to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you.
8 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Connection with Loved Ones
1. Start the day together
Just 2 minutes in the morning hugging your kids or partner, or playing with your dog will make your – and their – day get off to a fabulous start. I’m not talking about a quick ‘Give me a kiss’ and then run-out-the-door type of greeting. I mean really focus on them. It’s just 2 minutes, but make them 2 quality-filled minutes.
If you can’t begin the day together, make your ‘presence’ known: if your kids are still in bed when you leave for work, write them a quick note and leave it on the table where they’ll see it: ‘Sorry I missed you this morning, I’m thinking of you. Big kiss xxx’. It might not seem like much, but these little reminders that someone loves us and has us on their mind go a long way to keeping us happy.
Some friends of mine, that I regularly visit, are exemplary hosts. I usually stay for a long weekend, so on the Monday morning when they leave for work, I’m still relaxing in bed until I’m due to head off later that day. When I go downstairs, they’ve always left me something delicious for breakfast, that they know that I like. Showing that you remember your friend’s fondness for almond croissant, for example, gets a lot of points in the relationship bank!
2. Be mindful of your loved ones
Even if we’re super busy, we can usually manage a quick 30 second text. The problem is, though we might not ‘forget’ that we care about them, we often do forget to express it. I’m dreadfully forgetful and regularly used to find myself thinking ‘ Oh no, I forgot to get back to such-and-such…’.
I get around this nowadays because of my journal. I used to think that keeping a journal would be like some childish, teenager, diary type activity, but (thankfully) it turns out it’s not remotely like that. Keeping a journal is useful for so many personal development intentions… AND, one of the columns in my journal is ‘Friends and Family’.
I try to reach out to someone every day, and often this is nothing more than a speedy voice message or brief “thinking of you’ text on Whats App. It does the job though: where previously weeks might have passed without responding to loved ones, or initiating a chat to let them know I was thinking of them, I now keep in touch with most people over the span of a month.
3. Include your loved ones in your daily activities
I don’t have human children – my 2 doberdicks are my kids. Unless I’m in a session with someone, I try to make sure my dogs can always come and sit with me. My boy is very demanding, so I frequently need to tell him he can sit next to me so long as he doesn’t insist on shoving his nose under my arm for attention. That rarely works though and he will sit next to me at my desk, pushing and pushing.
Eventually I go and stretch out on the bed with my computer to work and he piles in alongside me. Then he sleeps. Sometimes it’s just a question of finding a way to be together quietly, without actively needing to do something.
Can you try something similar with your kids? Perhaps giving them books to read in a cushion-filled corner of your office will suffice, from where they’ll be able to see you and feel that you’re in their lives?
Or could you include them by taking them with you to certain places? For instance, I’ve noticed at my gym that there is an area for children, as well as classes for kids. It allows the parents to head off and do some exercise, and the kids have fun too.
4. Take short, 3-minute breaks
I get just 5 minutes in between sessions, and very often I’ll use one of those to throw a squeaky toy for my dogs. Unlike the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, my mutts are unlikely to seize up because of the regular, short bursts of activity they have throughout the day.
I vary the activity – one day a squeaky toy, the next a kong with treats inside, then a licky mat. The same can be done with family members – no, not throwing a squeaky toy, but yes, a quick game of hide and seek, doing part of a crossword puzzle together, reading just one page of a book together each day. See some quick, fun games you can play here.
5. Don’t forget the value of touch
In my hotpod yoga class, there is a moment when the teacher passes round the room and briefly massages each person’s temple. It’s such a fleeting momment, it can’t last more than 10 seconds, but it’s such a lovely intervention.
Most of us appreciate a little shoulder rub, a hug, a quick hand massage, or having our hair stroked. It takes no time at all to do this, yet it can really change someone’s level of relaxation and connection. And of course, that’s true for our dogs too!
6. Do quick, 2-minute learning
If you’ve got kids, fire off a couple of ‘quick quiz’ questions to them about their studies. Show you take an interest in what they’re up to when you’re not around. It’s a great opportunity to give them a bit of praise.
The same is true for your pooches. For just a couple of minutes you can do some rapid training – reinforcing basic commands, and rewarding them with affection and treats.
7. Grab lunch with workmates
Perhaps you don’t have time to sit down for lunch, but you could manage walking down to the sandwich shop, or coffee cart with friends at work. Just checking in briefly allows you to continue investing in your relationships, even in the periods when you’re short on time.
Maybe your work friends are even more snowed under than you? Offer to bring them back their coffee and sandwich if they can’t leave their desk.
8. Don’t forget important dates
There’s really no excuse for this: every smartphone has a calendar, so it’s really not difficult to send yourself reminders about people’s birthdays, or the anniversary of some important event. Don’t just think about the positive anniversaries – the date that someone lost a loved one can be a very painful, lonely day to spend in the following years. A quick call or message from a friend, saying their thoughts are with you, is priceless.
Whilst most of us these days complain that there just isn’t enough time to do everything, with a little bit of mindful creativity we can improve our connection and relationship with others in just 2-3 minutes, a few times a day.