Friends are vital for well being ?
Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
Our taste in friendship changes as we get older
Not surprisingly, friendships have slightly different functions at different life stages. “In our teens and early adult life, we’re forging our identities so we use our friends as mirrors,” explains Professor Degges-White. “However, as we get older, we become more comfortable in our own skin so we don’t need friends who are just like us. We can enjoy having friends of different ages, with different tastes, interests and perspectives.”
Life-stage transitions such as starting or leaving college, moving to a new job or area, having children and retiring also trigger changes in friendships. “After becoming a parent, for instance, your priorities change and you may want to spend more time with other new parents who understand your priorities better than your childless friends,” she adds.
According to Professor Degges-White, there are two main types of friendship: those forged from shared values, and ‘convenience friends’ – those you may see often, for instance at the school gates, but with whom you don’t necessarily have a great deal in common.
“The convenience friendships usually fade as soon as the practical need for them disappears – for instance, when your children have grown up and you no longer need to carpool,” she explains. “This isn’t necessarily bad. If those friendships are not based on real connection but we need them for practical reasons, we may tolerate behaviour we wouldn’t normally accept.”
5 ways to make and keep friends
- Don’t assume other people aren’t looking for friends. They may have just moved to a new area, have recently retired or may be newly single.
- Friendships are often borne from shared interests, so join a local group such as a chess or golf club.
- Reach out to someone you see often who seems friendly. Suggest something casual first, like going for a coffee.
- Share but don’t over-share. To build trust and understanding, a certain amount of mutual personal disclosure is necessary. But go slowly – too much too fast can make you seem needy, or you may divulge something you later regret.
- Use social media. It’s a great way to track down old friends you’ve lost touch with. You never know, they may now live nearer to you than you thought. Even if distance is a factor, email and video chats make it easier to stay in touch than ever before.
A bunch of weirdo who don't care at all
Which friendships last?
The friendships that sustain are those that are based upon shared core values. These may be old friends with whom we have a strong emotional history. We may not necessarily see them very often but we never stop thinking of them as our friends.
Besides similar values, several factors are needed for friendship to last. “You need a mutual understanding, trust and no envy or jealousy. True friends will support you through the bad times and be genuinely happy when things go your way. True friends also accept your flaws and won’t undermine you. If you always feel low or emotionally drained after meeting a certain person, that could be a sign that it isn’t a healthy friendship,” warns Professor Degges-White.
Worryingly, studies suggest that the number of friends we have tends to shrink in the last third of our lives due to a whole range of factors including death, retirement, diminishing physical mobility and relocation. However, with a little effort, it is always possible to make new friends at any stage of life.