In addition to celebrating your success and lifting you up when you are down, friends are essentially an extension to your family, aren’t they? Although we hear a lot about the importance of social relationships on a daily basis, the physical and emotional benefits of our friendships are now backed up by science too.
Here are five ways your friends can positively affect your happiness and your health at the same time. If you needed reasons to be grateful for your friends, here they are:
1. They keep you calm
Do you feel stressed out or depressed? The good news is that your friends can help. A 2011 study has shown that spending quality time with your friends can help a lot in reducing stress. In a country where nearly 50% of the population has experienced stress in the past year, the friends can be a much-needed support.
2. They increase your sense of belonging
Maintain a healthy relationship with others makes you more compassionate and provides a greater sense of meaning and belonging. As explained by Karyn Hall, Ph.D., director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, Texas, friends serve as a gateway to feeling part of the “whole.” sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness,” she said. When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult times. You are not alone. There is comfort in that knowledge.”
3. They help you battle health issues
Interestingly, having a good friend nearby can help big issues and challenges seem smaller. The same applies to health problems too. Namely, it has been scientifically shown that social support positively affects you when you are fighting a disease, reduces depression, and lowers the risk for dementia.
4. They can improve your mood
In addition to reducing your stress levels, your social life may also positively affect your overall mood. Studies show that building new friendships can notably lift your spirits through the release of oxytocin. Needless to say, who else can cheer you up if not your friends who are familiar with all of the ins and outs of your brain?
5. They can help you live longer
While our friendships might have a current impact on your life, a 2009 study has shown that friends can have a positive influence later on as well. It has been scientifically proven that our social bonds help us live longer, probably due to the positive impact they have on our daily lives. For instance, our friends can help us eat better, exercise, or quit smoking, all of which are major components for longevity.
How to Nurture Your Friendships?
First and foremost, you need to accept yourself and work on building your self-confidence. This is very important as insecurity and low self-confidence can be turnoffs to potential and current friends.
Just like you do with yourself, you need to accept others too. Encourage them to express their feelings, invest in the relationship, and never make fun of their feelings or thoughts. When your friends share certain details of their experiences, make sure you are empathetic. Ultimately, respect boundaries and never ask questions which seem uncomfortable or too personal.