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Strengthening Friendships and A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman

Cover of the book A Man Called One by Frederik Backman

Ove misses his wife. She recently died, and she was his world. Ove reflects on how before and after her, his life was black and white, but his life was in full color with her. Total, glorious, loving, connected, and fun color. Ove is deeply unhappy and depressed without his wife. He doesn’t know it, he can’t put his finger on it, but Ove needs friends.

Many of us walk around lonely. Even when, like Ove, surrounded by people.

When I was in grad school, a professor used to share that his question was never, “what makes you happy?” but rather, “who makes you happy?” His point, which I wholeheartedly agree with, was that relationships are key to our happiness as humans. Research confirms this. People who have fulfilling friendships live longer and experience less stress and depression.

So, what can you do if you are feeling lonely? Today we’ll focus on deepening and strengthening friendship connections or reconnecting with people you already know. In the future, we’ll talk about making new friends. Here’s a helpful exercise:

  • List your close friends, friends, and acquaintances. There’s no right number, and everyone is different, so don’t get too caught up on how long your list is.

  • Your list may have people you haven’t talked to in a long time or prioritized appropriately in the past. Take a few deep breaths, and know that you can still reach out even if you’ve made mistakes. It’s never too late to try to do the right thing.

  • Next to each person, write down something you can do to build or maintain the relationship. Instead of seeking grand gestures, start with something easy – like a phone call, text, coffee date, walk, etc.

As Ove comes to recognize, friendship is a life-affirming and fulfilling gift. And it’s something we all need.


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