Good friends are often the most important people in our lives. However, not all friends are equal. We all need good friendships in our lives, but the truth is making friends is hard. While making friends online is easier, you can miss out on many in-person benefits.
Friends who are open to each other, communicate well. Even if you don’t like the truth, they won’t hesitate to tell it. They accept you as you are. They will respect your boundaries even if yours are different to theirs.
A healthy friendship is also about mutual support. Your friend will not expect you to just help them. They will support you whenever they can, even if they are only able to offer a listening ear.
What’s the cherry on top? A solid friendship is good for your health. Here’s why:
You Feel Less Alone
Social isolation and loneliness can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. More people feel lonely these days.
You can understand the difference by thinking this: Friends prevent isolation and good friends prevent loneliness.
You can be lonely, while still being surrounded by people. It’s a common misconception people have. Even though you don’t feel isolated, it is possible to have many friends and still feel lonely. It is the quality of the relationship that matters most. Many casual or superficial friendships don’t offer much emotional support. Even though you might have exercise buddies, gaming friends, or coffee buddies, you could still feel lonely.
However, having a few friends around you can prevent loneliness. If you feel lonely, it is possible to reach out to a friend and talk, joke, or share your feelings with them. You might be separated by distance or other factors, but knowing that you have a strong connection can make you feel less alone.
Everybody experiences stress. You may feel it in small or large doses from time to time. However, stress can quickly build up and overwhelm you.
Although you might feel moody symptoms like anxiety, depression or irritability it is possible that stress can also affect your health in other ways.
Long-term stress can lead to:
- Poor immune health
- Digestive problems
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
There is some positive news. Research suggests that strong friendships can help with stress management and lower the likelihood of you having to face stress later on.
Recall the last time that you were worried or upset about something. Perhaps you shared your worries with a friend, who may have listened and helped you to brainstorm solutions.
Friends who care about you and are willing to help you will reduce the likelihood of potential stressors building up and causing you significant distress.
Relationships can be enriched by emotional support.
You might get support from your friends by:
- Listening — and really listening — to your problems
- Validating your feelings
- Doing nice things just for you
- Helping to distract you from sadness or upset
You might consider your partner first if you are in a romantic relationship. This is normal and romantic partners can offer support and comfort, but they shouldn’t be the only source of your emotional support.
Relationship experts recommend that you maintain friendships with people other than your partner. This can help improve both your emotional and relationship health.
Friends who share your interests and can support you when you are having disagreements with your partner or want to spend more time doing something you enjoy will help you keep your self-esteem high.
Friends can be a great support system if you are looking to make positive changes in your life, or if you have a bad habit that you wish to change. Strong friendships may help you live longer.
Good examples can be a great way for friends to help you make positive changes. Perhaps your friend who quit smoking recently inspires you.
Friends might be able to support you in making positive changes and may even make it easier for you. A buddy who is a runner or a member of a gym can help you stick to it until it becomes ingrained in your daily life.
They will cheer you on, no matter what they do. This can increase your self-confidence and help you achieve your goals.
All of us want to feel that we are important to others, that our lives have a purpose. According to Maslow’s hierarchy, belonging needs are third in Maslow’s list of needs after safety and basic needs. It is important to develop and maintain close friendships in order to foster feelings of belonging.
Giving back to others makes your life more meaningful. You can offer compassion and support to others when you care about them. This will make you a better, more confident person.
You can also feel more secure knowing that you have a support system to help you in your daily life. Even if your friends live in different states or cities, they still have the support of trusted friends who are there for you.
Help through the challenges
Life is not always easy. Sometimes, it can get downright awful and everything can seem to be going wrong. Whether you are in a difficult situation or are battling with trauma, friends can be there to help you and support your emotional well-being. Friends can help you through:
- Divorce or breakup
- Death of a pet, or a loved one
- Family problems
These challenges can have a major impact on your long-term mental health. Research from 2017 suggests that strong friendships can make it easier to deal with whatever life throws at us. The study examined resilience in over 2,000 teens between 14 and 24 years old. It found evidence that friendship strongly predicts resilience or the ability to rebound from distressing experiences.
The study authors found that family support was not enough to increase resilience immediately. Friendship, however, predicted greater resilience later in life. It is possible friendship can be a great tool for dealing with distress related to family problems such as neglect or abuse.