7 Ways Your Friendships Improve Your Mental Health
Friend (noun): “a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person.”
From the start of our lives, our friends shape and make our life what it becomes. Arguably, our choices also shape and make our life what it becomes. But inevitably, friends play an important role along the way and in a person’s overall happiness.
And surprisingly, friends also take a critical place when it comes to mental health care.
In fact, difficulties in the friendship department can pose a threat to serious mental health issues. It makes a person feel isolated and alone - key ingredients for depression and anxiety.
Individuals with long-lasting relationships live longer. They deal with stress better. And oddly enough, they have a stronger fight when it comes to keeping the typical cold at bay.
Yeah, you read that right.
Friends don’t only help you out in the mental health care department, but they might also aid your physical body to thwart illness and harm.
Adult Friendships Hold Great Value
You probably remember your first friend.
It was in daycare (like most). We played together during playtime. Friendship at that time basically consisted of following each other around and sometimes arguing over who got to play who in the make-believe world we’d conjured up.
Adult friendship, on the other hand, goes much deeper. And if you keep those friends throughout the years, relationships may blossom and develop into an understanding and appreciation that no other can replace.
These friends become people you can vent to. They are individuals you respect and trust. They know you like no one else. Most importantly, they just seem to get you (sound familiar? You’ve got good friends).
For example, I sometimes loathe my friends’ opinions on something. But at the same time, I appreciate their opinions because my perspective becomes more nuanced.
Sometimes, it’s what I need to hear. And an inflated ego occasionally needs to be set straight. Respect comes into play here. We’re able to hash things out and understand them. In the end, we may not agree, but we appreciate the other’s stance.
So, if you get to this level of friendship, cherish it. Life is short, and it’s really that much better with these kinds of minds in your life.
And that’s not all. There’s a ton of other benefits of friendship. We’ve got seven, to be exact. Wrap your mind around these mental health facts (then maybe, go hug your friend and tell them how great they are).
Here's How Friendships Improve Mental Health
1. Friends Help Alleviate the Stress in Your Life
Get this: The effects of friendships and socialization is worth twice that of exercising when it comes to life longevity. It means they help you live longer.
Now, I’m not saying to quit exercise. But the research is there, and it counts more than exercise. Combine exercise and friends, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a happy and long life.
How does friendship do this?
Back to my main point: friends reduce stress in your life. Chronic stress is associated with feelings of isolation. Eventually, this chronic stress causes a whole whack of things to go wrong, leading to things like heart disease, diabetes, and more.
Throw a few good friends into the equation, and you’ve got a social circle to vent to - or at least, help you work through your problems. They let you know you aren’t alone. At least a good friend wouldn’t.
2. Friends Boost Your Social Skills
Your mental health vastly improves when you socialize.
For the introverts out there, it can pose a tough and frustrating dilemma. But if you go to these gatherings or events with a friend in tow, you’ll be more likely to develop better social skills and, thus, improve your mental health.
You’ve got their back, and they’ve got yours.
3. Your Friendships May Lower Your Risk of Dementia
A study from 2012 indicated that the risk of developing dementia increased with feelings of loneliness.
13% of participants that stated they were lonely at the start developed dementia over the course of the study. Meanwhile, only 5% of participants who stated they didn’t feel lonely developed dementia. It makes it hard to argue that loneliness doesn’t play a role.
Researchers inferred that a lack of social engagements and attachments might contribute to the development of dementia - at least more than we think. In fact, it may accelerate cognitive decline.
You might also like: How to Nurture Your Female Friendships
4. Friends Offer Someone to Lean On
Going through a rough time? Again, it could be that much more difficult without a friend or friendly ear to talk to. Surprisingly, there is a lot of evidence that states support groups vastly improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
5. Friends Give a Sense of Belonging & Identity
A sense of belonging and one’s own sense of identity are strongly linked to a sense of purpose.
Purpose is what drives us in life. Having those connections and those people to remind us who we are supports this. Friends give you comfort, which humans crave, as well as an emotional connection with others. In fact, some would argue we need it for optimal mental health care and stability.
6. Friends Introduce Us to New Hobbies & Activities
Without my friends, there are so many activities I would never have tried (for example, I would never have tried hip-hop dancing, ever, like not in a million years).
Friends push us to try new things. They help us straddle the edge of our comfort zone while offering a supportive and caring person to turn to when in doubt. And it can be fun. You get a chance to explore a creative or adventurous side that you didn’t know you had.
Studies, again, suggest that creativity and pushing your comfort zone have a lot to do with good mental health care and your overall cognitive health.
7. Our Friendships Increase Our Self-Confidence
Need someone to tell you that you are great even though you doubt it? Ask your best friend.
Friends are people you can rely on for advice. You can also trust them and know that they’re going to be honest with you. They’ll cheer you on when you need it. They’ll give you the support you crave.
After all, what are friends for?
Hold Your Friends Tight!
Treat your friends right. Those friendships matter more than you think, especially when it comes to good mental health. So call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Plan a gathering (safely), or even better host a get-together.
Grab a buddy as an accountability partner for the gym or for the goals in your life. Cheer each other on.
The best ships are friendships!
Related article: How to Strengthen Your Relationships with Your Siblings