Relationships can have a big impact on your health and well-being, but building or maintaining friendships is not always easy. You need to make sure you understand the importance of friendship in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture your friendly relationships with other people. But do we really understand: what is friendship?
What are the benefits of friendship?
Good friends are always good for your health. Friends are there when you celebrate your good times in life and give you support in the bad times.
Friends prevent you from feeling lonely and also give you the necessary company that we all need in life. Humans are social creatures and friends are important to have. Friends can also:
– Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
– Increase your happiness and reduce your stress
– Improve your self-confidence and sense of self-worth
– Help you cope with bad things like divorce, serious illness or the death of a family member
– Encourage yourself to change or avoid unhealthy habits like excessive drinking or lack of exercise
Friends also play a big and important role in promoting your health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and obesity.
Studies have even shown that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with poorer social lives.
Why is it sometimes difficult to make new friends or keep old ones?
Many adults find it difficult to develop new friendships or keep existing ones. Friendships can easily take a back seat to other priorities such as work or childcare.
You and your friends may have grown apart because of changes in your life or interests.
You may have moved to a new area and not yet found a way to meet new people.
Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. However, the enjoyment and comfort that friendship can provide makes the investment worthwhile.
How many friends do you need?
Quality counts more than quantity when it comes to the number of friends you should have.
While it's good to have a large network of friends and acquaintances, you also want to nurture some really close friends who will be there for you through wet and dry.
It can be difficult to have too many really good friends in your life, as all of these relationships require some sort of investment of time.
How do you meet new people?
You may have overlooked potential friends who are already on your social network.
Think about people you have interacted with, even very casually, who have left a positive impression on you.
You can find potential friends among people who:
– You have worked with or gone to school together
– You were friends before, but have since lost touch
– You share family ties
If someone sticks out in your memory and is someone you want to get to know better, reach out. Ask mutual friends or acquaintances to give you the person's contact details.
Then send an invitation for coffee or lunch.
To meet new people who can become your friends, go to places where other people gather. Don't limit yourself to one strategy for meeting people.
The more effort you put in, the more likely you are to succeed.
Perseverance matters too. Take the initiative instead of waiting to be invited somewhere.
You may need to suggest things a few times before you know if your interest in a new friend is mutual.
For example, try one of these suggestions:
Attend events. Look for groups or clubs that coalesce around an interest or hobby that you also have. These groups are often listed in newspapers or on bulletin boards.
There are also many websites that help you connect with new friends in your area or city.
Volunteer. Give your time or talents at a hospital, church, museum, community center, charity or other organization.
You can make strong connections when you work with people who have common interests.
Extend and accept invitations. Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. Thank someone when you are invited somewhere.
Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
Take up new interests. Go to college or community college to meet people who have similar interests. Go work out at the local gym, there are always friendly people to meet there.
Go for a walk. Take your kids or pets and go outside. Chat with neighbors who are also out or about, or go to a popular park and start conversations there.
But above all, be positive.
You may not make friends with everyone you meet, but maintaining a friendly attitude and behaving well can help you improve conditions in your life and sow the seeds of friendship with new acquaintances.
How does social media affect friendship?
Joining a chat group or online community can help you make or maintain contacts and relieve loneliness.
However, research suggests that using social media to find friends does not necessarily result in new friends in real life.
Also, remember to be careful when sharing personal information or arranging an activity with someone you have just met online.
How can I nurture my friendships?
Developing and maintaining healthy friendships means give and take. Sometimes you're the one providing support, and other times you're on the receiving end.
Letting friends know you care and appreciate them can help strengthen the bonds between you. Being a good friend is as important to you as surrounding yourself with good friends.
To nurture your friendships:
Be kind. This is the most basic behavior. Cultivated in childhood. Remains at the core of successful adult relationships. Think of friendship as an emotional bank account.
All kindness and gratitude are deposits in this account, while criticism and negativity are removed from the account.
Listen. Ask what's going on in your friends' lives. Tell the other person you're watching with eye contact, body language and occasional short comments like “That sounds fun.”
When friends share information with you about hard times or difficult experiences, be empathetic, but don't give advice if your friends don't ask for it.
Open up. Build intimacy with your friends by opening up about yourself.
Being willing to reveal personal experiences and concerns shows that your friend has a special place in your life and that your friendship will be much stronger.
Show that you can be trusted. Being responsible and trustworthy is key to building strong friendships.
Keep your promises and always arrive on time. When your friends share confidential information, keep it between you.
Be available. Building a close friendship takes time, time that you both need to give. Make an effort to meet new friends regularly and check in with them when you don't see them for a while.
You may feel uncomfortable the first few times you talk on the phone or meet, but this feeling is likely to go away as you become more comfortable with each other.
Manage your nerves. You may imagine the worst social situations and feel tempted to stay home. You need to reshape your thinking.
Each time you imagine the worst, pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you fear actually occur. YOU may notice that the scenarios you fear don't happen as often.
When embarrassing situations arise, remind yourself that your feelings will pass and that you can deal with them until they do.
Remember that it's never too late to make new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off with better health and a better outlook on life and the years ahead.