Welcome to the Smarter Living newsletter! Every Monday, Tim Herrera emails readers with tips and advice for living a better, more fulfilling life. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.
Last week, Smarter Living ran what I think is one of the most delightful stories we’ve published: Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships.
“Think of the parents you see in the drop-off line at school. Your favorite bartender. The other dog owners at the park,” the writer Allie Volpe told us. These low-level acquaintances not only widen our network when we’re, say, looking for a job, but research has shown that these weak ties also “empower us to be more empathetic. We’re likely to feel less lonely, too, research shows.”
This idea is perfectly summed up in Scott Galloway’s book “The Algebra of Happiness.” Mr. Galloway compares the everyday maintenance of relationships to compound interest: We make investments in those relationships through our words and actions, and over time those investments allow our relationships to blossom.
“Take a ton of pictures, text your friends stupid things, check in with old friends as often as possible, express admiration to co-workers, and every day, tell as many people as you can that you love them,” he writes. “A couple of minutes every day — the payoff is small at first, and then it’s immense.”
Yes, the metaphor is a bit of a stretch, and at worst one might read it as a tad cold (relationships shouldn’t simply be transactional, of course). But the wisdom contained in it is deeply insightful. Shared experiences with our friends and loved ones — no matter how small — are what get us through the other parts of our lives. Sending your friend a silly tweet you saw can brighten both of your days, and expressing gratitude has been found to make both you and the receiver feel measurably happy. One study found that even “social interactions with the more peripheral members of our social networks contribute to our well-being.”
So today, make an investment. Check in with an old friend, text someone a meme or even take a minute to say an overdue thank you.
What did you say, and to whom did you say it? I want to hear your stories! Tell me on Twitter @timherrera.
Have a great week!
P.S. — To all the parents out there: The Times just launched NYT Parenting, a new website that provides guidance and support to new and expectant parents. Subscribe to the Parenting newsletter here, and read all of its advice here.
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Tip of the Week
This week I’ve invited the writer Kathleen Wong to teach us how to beat our Sunday Scaries.
As Maroon 5 crooned, “Sunday morning, rain is falling, steal some covers, share some skin.” It’s a solid plan for the second weekend day until you look at the clock and realize that Monday is just around the corner. The ensuing anxiety has been cleverly called the “Sunday Scaries,” and yes, it’s a real thing. Just ask Twitter.
Such scaries are prompted by anticipating the end of our precious, limited free time and soon having to tackle the responsibilities of the week ahead, according to Melissa Robinson-Brown, a psychologist based in New York. These anxieties are heightened for people who are unhappy in their jobs, so intensely feeling Sunday Scaries is a good reminder to check in with yourself and where you’re at with your career.
That said, Sunday Scaries can just as easily happen to people who are happy with their jobs. It’s a type of low-level, background anxiety that can hit anyone as Sunday afternoon sunlight recedes behind the horizon.
To combat the scaries, plan an enjoyable (preferably offline) activity or outing, like taking a walk or reading a good book, and if it helps you unwind, leave the phone at home. Staying mindful about what’s happening around you will distract you from anxious thoughts about tomorrow.
As the day winds down, set intentions and goals — professionally and in your personal life — for the week. These will help you regain control of your worries and look forward to conquering the week rather than fearing it.