Tag Archives: relationships

Nurturing connections, belonging, and making time for what’s imporant

When I visited Japan in October, I got to see my friends from high school.

{dinner with my high school buddies 🙂}

Even though we are 40 now, and some of us hadn’t seen each other for almost 20 years, we clicked instantly.

We have different lives now – many of them are married with kids (a couple of them have kids in high school even!!), handle lots of responsibilities at work and home, and some have lost their spouse or a parent.

But we laughed and talked for hours and bonded over funny/awful stories from our teenage years.

The whole time we were hanging out, I was overcome with gratitude.

First of all, I was so grateful that they wanted to see me! It makes me sound like I have a low self-esteem, but I just honestly didn’t know they wanted to see me because I hadn’t kept in touch with them in any meaningful way.

Sure, some of us are on Facebook and occaionally “like” each other’s posts, but it doesn’t make me feel super connected. It’s like reading the news I won’t remember two weeks later (or even 2 hours later!)

But seeing them in-person and eating and laughing together created an instant connection.

Even though it’d been a long time and we’re all in different places in life, I still felt like I belonged.

It’s hard to have a split life between the two worlds. It’s my choice to live so far away from home, and I appreciate it 95% of the time. I have a fulfilling life and a loving community in Seattle, and I have a great time when I’m in Japan, too. Of course, neither places are “perfect” and we all know what kinds of problems exist in both countries.

But I still wish there was a magical portal that connects the two places so I could go back and forth whenever I want. I wish I could just drop by my parents’ house for dinner or see my friends’ kids grow up close by.

It was sad to say goodbye, but my heart was full. 

​Yes, it sucks to be away from your loved ones. But it makes me realize just how special our relationship is. I’m grateful I have family and friends who are truly happy to see me and make me feel accepted for who I am today. 

It’s kind of like when Dave and I were in a long distance relationship for 5 years – I was a wreck whenever we had to say goodbye to each other, but it made our time together so much more precious. We were much more intentional about our communication and didn’t take each other for granted. The distance between us made our hearts grow stronger.

And it really doesn’t matter how close or far away you’re from your loved ones.

Full disclosure: I’ve only seen one of my closest friends in Seattle, who lives one train station away, 5 times this year. That’s like seeing each other every 8 weeks. I was actually shocked to learn that just now! I gotta take a deep breath to calm down…

Yea, we traveled a lot this year, and I was frequently out of town. It seems my friend’s been working on demanding projects at work all the time. We’re both introverts, so we really need alone time to unwind on weekends etc. We text each other sometimes to check in, but still…

There is an artwork on my wall that says, “You always have time for the things that are important to you.”

There it is. It can’t get any truer than that. If I value connection with my friends and family, then I will make time to nurture that connection. I can always choose to be the person I want to be!

So I decided this year I’m gonna take the time to send out Christmas cards to my friends and family. 

I may not be able to send them to everyone I care about. I may not be able to do it every year. But this year, I’m going to do it because I can and I want to.

I know I’m lucky to have them in my life, and the holiday season gives me an opportunity to do something extra. (Plus, I already asked for a bunch of my friends’ addresses, so they’re expecting to receive something from me 😀 Accountability!)

How about you? What helps you feel connected to people you love? How do you make time for things that are important to you? 



p.s. If you’re inspired to join me in sending cards to our loved ones this holiday season, you can browse all of my holiday notecards in my shop here.



Happiness Project Reflection 7: It’s All About the Relationships

relationoships_loresGood morning!

My 365 Day Happiness Project Reflection blog series have already reached #7!  Wow!  I’ve got two more to share after this, so hang tight 🙂

I love building relationships.  I thrive on relationships.  I like thinking about them and talking about them.  I’m not only talking about romantic relationships but all kinds of relationships.  Friends, family, co-workers, neighbors etc.  There is something very magical about how humans connect with one another.  You meet someone, get to know each other, and create a space for this person in your life.  I just find it so fascinating!


One of the BEST THINGS that came out of my 365 Day Happiness Project was I got to connect with so many new people who like what I do.   Some of them are locals, and many live all over the world.  I’ve been lucky enough to connect with some of my heroes through the project, too, which would have been almost impossible if it wasn’t for the internet!  There are many things I wish could be different about social media, but one definite positive is now someone like me could reach a much wider audience with a click of a button.

For the last year or so, I’ve been focusing on relationship building a lot, especially with my art/illustration business.  Why?  Because having a positive and meaningful relationship with people who support your work has many benefits even though some of them may not be visible.

I used to accept compliments from my family and friends very reluctantly when they told me they liked my work. Because, well, they are my family and friends.  They wouldn’t tell me even if they think my work is crap, would they?  I’d tell myself they’re saying that to be “nice.”  They don’t want to hurt my feelings.  In my head, I decided they don’t really think my work is that great.  They buy my stuff because they want to support me as a person, not because they really want my stuff.  Sound familiar?

As I put myself out there more and more lately, though, I’ve been feeling a little bit different about it.  The truth is, your friends who support your work are the best kind of audience you can ask for.  You want to surround yourself with people who like and care about you as a person.  They care about you personally and want you to succeed!  They do think your work is great because you made them.  They encourage you and appreciate you.  How could you not want them as your audience??


One obvious benefit of having a good relationship with your audience is you build trust.  And why is trust important? It is because customers buy from people they trust.  As someone who’s trying to make a living from selling services and products, it is super important to me that I earn the trust of my audience.

I often see on my neighborhood Facebook page people asking others “Do you know a trustworthy car mechanic?” or “I’m looking for a realtor.  Who do you recommend?” You can compare and read hundreds of reviews on services and products online before buying anything.  I totally follow this pattern myself and buy services and products from people I know and trust or recommended by people I trust.  I know their work is good, and I don’t have to worry about them taking advantage of me!

Just like your family and friends, your audience who like and trust you as a person can be your powerful personal brand ambassadors.  And that is so cool!!


So, how do you build trust?

In order for the relationship to develop organically, you can’t just show up when you need something from them or treat them like a dollar sign.  When you put out quality work consistently as a down-to-earth, real person  and treat them with respect, people will start trusting you.

I’d like to view my relationship-building work like gardening.  You tend the soil, sow seeds, and nurture them.  Some seeds will sprout and give you nourishment.  Some will never sprout because the condition wasn’t right, or the seeds weren’t viable.  Sometimes it takes years for it to bear fruits.  Some plants will self-seed and keep coming back year after another.  Failed crop doesn’t necessarily mean you will never succeed.  It’s an opportunity to learn and try something new next time.


Relationship-building takes time, energy, and skills.  It can be discouraging when you don’t seem to get anything in return from your effort immediately in the form of increased sales, for example.  But don’t underestimate the value of intangible benefits.  People telling me how much they love my work and how my work inspires them are worth more than gold to me.

Words of appreciation and encouragement are my number one Love Language, and I will keep making and sharing art even if I never made a dime as long as someone tells me my art has made their world a little bit better.

Fear not, though, because if you’re putting out quality work consistently and treating your audience with respect and kindness, you will see results.  My daily art practice has helped me to grow my audience, and many doors have opened for me since then.  I can only imagine more opportunities coming in as I quit my day job and focus more time and energy on my art business this summer!!!  Woo hoo!

Here are a few things I’ve been doing to build a positive relationship with my audience:

1) Engage with my audience on different social media platforms  i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and my blog.  I like to respond to all the comments and questions I receive as quickly as possible because I appreciate them taking the time to say something nice or ask questions!  It always feels so nice when people I admire and follow respond to me.

2) Share my life and what I know with my audience.  This is something new I’m trying with my weekly blog posts.  I want to share different parts of my life with my audience through my writing.  I’m intentional about what to share – I don’t want to talk about myself just for the sake of talking (plus that is not something I enjoy anyway…).  I want my sharing to have a purpose.  I want to inspire and motivate people to pursue their dreams by sharing my successes and challenges.

3) Send special mini blogs to my monthly art subscribers.  I’m not sure if you know I sell some of my art products through my Etsy shop.  This year I started a Gift of Happiness art subscription service where people can receive a new product from me every month.  Because I appreciate their support so much, I send them a special blog telling stories and processes about each product every month.  I also send them hand-written notes and postcards occasionally to say hi 🙂  I offer a 6-month subscription as well in case you’re interested in joining the club for the second half of the 2015!

4) Send a personalized hand-written note to my customers.  This is similar to my point above, but when I send out my orders to customers physically, I put a personalized hand-written note thanking them.  It’s a small thing, but I want to add a little personal touch.

My following is still pretty small, so I’m seizing this golden opportunity to pay close attention to every and each person who wants to engage with me.  As my audience grow over time, it will be more challenging, but I will do my best to show my appreciation and engage with them as much as I can.

First and foremost, I make art because it feeds my heart and soul.  But my journey is much more enjoyable and rewarding because of the relationships I have with people like you.  THANK YOU for following along on my adventure!!


Besides reading my blog and saying nice things (which I appreciate SO MUCH), you can also support me by signing up for my e-newsletter!  As my blog becomes more process and self-help orientated, I decided to start an e-newsletter as a primary way to let you know about events, products, and services.  If you don’t want to miss out on exciting new opportunities, be sure to sign up!


I’ll be talking about how to overcome a common disease know as “Comparing Yourself with Strangers on the Internet Syndrome” on my Happiness Project Reflection blog post next Sunday.  See you then!

xoxo Yuko