When Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband, she said no one knew how to talk to her. People felt awkward around her and didn't know what to say. In her new book, Option B, Sandberg explores how we can build resilience when we face life's toughest challenges and addresses an incredibly common issue we've all faced—being at a loss for words when a loved one is struggling. How many times have we found ourselves with a friend who is going through a breakup, a loss, or another difficult life transition and just been entirely paralyzed—with no idea what to do or say?
Learning to be more supportive to our loved ones begins with vulnerable, real conversations about how we feel and what we need. With that in mind, I've put together some research-backed ways to show your loved ones kindness and support in their times of need. With the right intentions and these proven strategies, you'll be sure to make a positive impact in even the most trying times.
1. Encourage them to talk about the good stuff that's happening, too.
No matter what someone is struggling with—their boss, their children, their partner—it won't all be bad. Ask them if there are any things related to that topic that they appreciate. Research shows that we tend to focus on the negative despite the fact that three times more positive things happen to us. It's all about perception.
2. Invite them to join you in supporting a cause or helping someone else.
When we help others, we automatically feel better. By asking your loved ones to participate, you're giving them the opportunity to engage in an act of service that research shows will improve their happiness.
3. Be 100 percent present. It really doesn't matter what you do or say, if you're not showing you care through your attention and your time.
Put away your phone, close your computer, and just be there. Listen and support them without judging them. Don't even offer suggestions unless they ask. Just be with them. They will feel heard and understood and may experience some relief. Research shows that positive social relationships with people help us feel better but that many people actually feel quite lonely—by listening in this way, you can help that person feel connected and supported.
4. Invite them for a healthy meal.
No, seriously! Sometimes it's really that easy. New research shows that simply boosting your intake of fresh fruits and veggies can dramatically increase your happiness and well-being. Take your friend to a vegetarian restaurant and load up on those fruits and vegetables to beat the blues.
5. Go for a walk outside.
Research shows that natural light (especially sunlight) can boost our mood. Studies also show that taking walks and being in nature reduce anxiety and depression. Plus, it's just nice. The weather's getting warmer, the days are getting longer, so spend a few minutes outdoors. For bonus points, take off your shoes and dig your feet into the bare earth.
6. Take them to a yoga or meditation class.
During times of emotional stress, our self-care and mindfulness can go out the window. But this is exactly when we need them most. Doing yoga and meditating helps reduce stress and increases your sense of calm and well-being. As a result, you'll begin to see things from a broader perspective and may even come up with solutions you might not have thought of otherwise.
7. Give them genuine compliments.
We all tend to be self-critical, even though we know self-criticism leads to anxiety and depression. It can be especially hard to resist the urge to self-flagellate when someone has just experienced a failure. Remind people of their strengths, their talents, and their positive attributes—but only when it feels authentic. A well-timed compliment can work wonders on your state of mind.
A bonus of investing your time and energy in a loved one is that it'll uplift you, too! the more we do for others, the happier, healthier, and more successful we are, too.