Friends are those people who exist outside of our families and play a huge role in our lives. The people you consider your closest friends help shape you into the person you become just as you help them develop into the person they will become.
Friendships can be based on many things. Many begin in kindergarten, elementary or high school, and college, some even leading to marriage. Many friendships start because of shared interests and common goals. Others grow from close proximity (as in the Helium Books), common life circumstances, or chance meetings.
We tend to emphasize family ties and romantic relationships more than friendships. We believe that family makes us whole and that family members will always be united, whether oceans apart or sitting side by side. We also think that finding the man or woman of our dreams will make us happy and fulfilled.
However, studies show that friends are actually more important than family or romance to our psychological wellness. Friends bring more happiness into our lives than virtually anything else.
Friendships have a huge impact on our emotional health. Good friends:
- Improve your mood and outlook on life.
- Boost your self-worth and self-esteem.
- Provide comfort and joy.
- Help you reach your goals.
- Relieve your stress and depression.
- Support you through tough times.
- Support you as you age.
- Prevent loneliness and isolation.
Developing and maintaining healthy friendships can also have a powerful impact on your physical health. Whether you are trying to lose weight, give up smoking or alcohol, or stick to a diet, encouragement from a close friend can help boost your willpower and increase your chance of success.
Research even suggests that friendship is tied to longevity. Researchers at Brigham Young University reviewed 148 studies involving 308,849 people followed for an average of 7.5 years looking for a link between social relationships and mortality.
Their conclusion? People who enjoyed strong social ties had a 50 percent increased chance of prolonged survival compared to those with weak or no social ties.
An Australian study also found that having larger networks of friends can help reduce the risk of mortality.
These two studies underscore just how important friendships are to our physical and psychological health.
Thoughtful friends tend to stick closer together than family or romantic partners. They often know you better and believe in you, giving encouragement to you when you have doubts about yourself. They pray for you more than you pray for yourself, and they make space for you when things get tough for you. They also celebrate with you when you are happy.
Above all, true thoughtful friends remind you of what matters most in your life. They bear witness to whatever happens to you and bring out the best in you.
Every friendship is unique with its own connection. It is a partnership between two people who come together on equal terms. True friendship endures the good, the bad, and the ugly.