Written by our Founder and CEO, the Celebrations Pulse letters aim to engage with our community. By welcoming your ideas and sharing your stories, we want to help you strengthen your relationships with the most important people in your life.
I’ve been writing a lot about holiday traditions over the past month. From visiting Santa and decorating trees to baking treats and enjoying holiday feasts, this letter has covered the many ways we strengthen relationships and create new memories through rituals.
The celebration of the new year brings even more traditions that tie together families and whole communities. Tonight, many of us will be sipping Champagne with friends, singing “Auld Lang Syne,” or watching a ball drop in person or on TV.
When I was growing up, my dad had his own fishy ritual. He saw New Year’s morning as an opportunity to share his passion for food with his kids. Once everyone was awake, he’d open a jar of pickled herring, put one on a plate, cut off a little piece, and offer it to the kids to sample. We’d cringed but eventually relented before running to the bathroom to brush our teeth.
Each year, Dad would offer up a slightly larger piece – and our overreactions grew in proportion. It was both hysterical and nauseating, and something all my brothers and sisters remember decades later.
Why did Dad do this? At the time, he claimed eating pickled herring would bring good luck. And it turns out he was right: In Scandinavia and Poland, people say eating the vinegary fish on New Year’s Day brings prosperity and bounty for the upcoming year. (But we were an Irish family…)
Health and wealth in the new year
My dad wasn’t alone in seeking ways to improve his life in the new year, and that brings us to yet another holiday tradition: making the New Year’s resolution. A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 48% resolved to improve their fitness, 38% their finances, and 36% their mental health.
Part of maintaining good physical and mental health is having strong relationships. A study by Brigham Young University revealed that having a small circle of close friends holds greater importance for health concerns, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and cancer than both diet and exercise habits. Further, the impact of having close friends was found to be as positive as smoking on your health is negative.
As we transition into later stages of adulthood, many of our long-standing friends from our earlier years may have moved away to start their own families. This may be true of you as well. And, as we become more distant to friends from our past, and as the years pass, so do opportunities to reconnect. As such, we might feel apprehension about reaching out to those we haven’t heard from – or heard from us – in years.
It’s simple: If you want a happier, healthier life, you should resolve to increase your circle of friends. No pickled herring needed.
Where to start: Initiate communication
I recently spoke with New York Times Opinion columnist and best-selling author David Brooks on the Celebrations Chatter podcast. The author of the new book, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, David thinks we don’t spend enough time cultivating conversations – and our friendships.
His solution? Not being afraid to make the first move in initiating communication. While David concentrates on instigating contact with strangers, his suggestions are also viable as a way for us to reconnect with those from our past. He says:
There are three buckets to think about in approaching strangers for meaningful conversations. First, we underestimate how much fun it will be to talk to strangers. Second, we underestimate how deep people want to go quickly in a conversation. And third, we are just too shy to take the first step to initiate more meaningful conversations.
David said that we also don’t think we know how to start a conversation.
We don’t know what to say, or we’re afraid we’ll invade someone’s privacy. Or worse, we’re too egotistical because we’re just busy thinking about ourselves to care about other people. I often leave a party and think, ‘You know, that whole time nobody asked me a question.’
The benefits of taking the first step
Even though there are so many ways to reach out to a friend who has fallen off our radar, you might say, “Oh I don’t want to bother them.” Instead, we should take a page from David’s book and imagine how fun it might be to be back in touch with an old friend, and how much they might appreciate hearing from us. I know when I’ve reached out to friends from my past, we fall quickly back into meaningful conversations as if no time passed, and I always come away happy that I took the first step.
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, consider David’s newfound approach to reaching out beyond ourselves. Here are some tips if you’re considering making solidifying your friendships a resolution.
- Take some time to find old friends on social media and send them friend requests.
- Social media is just a starting point. Go through your phone contacts and inbox and see who you haven’t pinged in a while. And if you’re of a certain age and perhaps still have a Rolodex, give it a spin.
- Have a “Friend of the Month.” At the start of each month, find a person you haven’t spoken to in years, and make the first move by reaching out. By next December, you might be back in touch with 12 friends from your past.
- Keep a relationship calendar and make a point to reach out to a different person on set dates.
- Similarly, keep a calendar of important dates of friends such as birthdays, anniversaries, or memorable goals.
- Create group emails or texts so that everyone can be connected and be able to share news within the group.
Regardless of the resolutions you choose for 2024, I hope you carry them all through, and that the new year brings an abundance of health and happiness.
Happy New Year!