Why Friends Are Good For Your Health and Happiness
Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive.
Do you ever wonder where you’d be if you hadn’t met certain friends along the way? I began the book I wrote on the social science of friendship, Friendfluence, with the above quote, because I wanted to emphasize not only how important friends are, but how much they shape us. They can bring out your best—or your worst.
You know you need friends, but you might not know just how much they affect your health, personal growth, and happiness. Just sitting and chatting with a friend can lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system. Having a supportive group can even help you recover from illnesses and live longer than you would otherwise. (That’s what you call friends for life.)
Friends show you new perspectives and spark your most genius ideas. They’re often the ones who get you jobs and coach you to new career heights. Laughing and connecting with friends changes your neurochemistry for the better. Friends make you feel like you matter, and that is a fundamental motivator in life.
Friendship is vital, but having the RIGHT friends for you is key. Search for friends who have traits you admire, since behaviors and attitudes spread through groups like the flu. Hanging around friends who are happy makes it more likely you’ll be happy. Eating, smoking, and drinking habits are all driven by your friends (and even the friends of your friends).
If your friends care more about sports or politics or fashion or money than you do, you’ll find your interests and values drifting toward theirs over time. That’s fine if you want to be like them! But it’s a problem if you wake up one day and realize you’re very far from who you are, or from who you want to be.
Friendship isn’t always as rosy as Instagram would have you believe. Even your best friends get on your nerves. It’s hard to move past conflict, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to bite your tongue. The shifts in friendships that happen as people grow older, grow apart, and try to balance social life with parenting and work can be upsetting. If you and a friend have a falling out, or, worse, a close pal ghosts you, you might find yourself as heartbroken as you’d be after a romantic split, but with less support from those who—wrongly—think a friend break-up isn’t such a big deal.
Navigating friendship is tricky, but the alternative of having no friends at all is much worse. Loneliness can send you into a downward spiral of depression, physical problems, and a cynicism toward other people that isolates you even further. That’s why you have to push yourself to keep up your good friendships and find new and inspiring ones.
Healthy friendships nourish the body, mind, and soul. If you think you can’t live without your friends, you’re literally right!
Carlin Flora for The BeeHive