A global study by Michigan State University (MSU) across 99 countries shows that people who nurture friendships have better psychological and physical health and have a happier and healthier life. Their data show that the benefits of friendships are even more evident among the elderly and people with fewer years of education. Friendships also provide valuable support in individualistic, inequitable, or constrictive cultures.
According to Mayo Clinic, friendships have a major effect on our overall health and well-being because friends help us cope with life’s tragedies and difficulties, such as the death of someone dear, grave illness, divorce, or losing a job. They reduce our stress, improve our sense of belonging and purpose, increase our self-confidence and self-worth, and make us happy.
Having strong social support from friends helps us keep healthy lifestyles and reduces the risk of developing many major health issues like hypertension, unhealthy excess weight, and depression. Research shows that seniors with an active social life have a higher chance of living longer than those who have fewer friends.
A study by Jeffrey Hall published in Human Communication Research shows that the number of people’s social interactions relates to global well-being. The quantity of close interactions also relates to a decrease in loneliness.
Neuroscience backs the need for friendships. People’s craving for social interaction occurs in the same part of the brain where people crave food. This was the finding of a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Results of a study by the University of South Wales (USW) show that after undergoing social isolation, people who experience social interaction have fewer cravings for food and cigarettes.
If you do not have friends, you must make an effort and take steps to meet people. These days, you can start online by joining social media groups focused on your interests. This will ensure that you meet people with whom you share an interest.
Participate actively in discussions and be yourself. Once you find people you resonate with, engage with them by commenting on their posts or replying to their comments more often. Allow friendships to develop naturally and avoid pushing yourself on people.
A study by Hayes shows that within the first three to nine weeks of knowing each other, you will feel if a friendship can go deeper or if you will stay as mere acquaintances. Hall states that building the foundation of a relationship needs at least 60 hours of shared time, connection, and conversations.
Once conditions are better all around, and when your locality allows it, you can arrange to meet your online friends in person while physically distancing. Choose an open-air location such as a park for everyone’s safety.
Exchanging friendship rings is a traditional and meaningful way to cement bonds among friends, but you must also do so much more in addition to that. Sociologist Robin Dunbar states that close relationships are based on how much we know about each other, from our problems and struggles to our dreams and achievements. You must, therefore, be ready to open up and be honest about yourself if you want to deepen a friendship. You must also learn to listen with empathy to a friend. Be responsible and prove that friends can trust you to keep private information confidential.
Dunbar notes that the size of our brain determines the amount of information we can hold and limits the number of people we can have close friendships with. Focus on the quality of your friendships rather than the number of friends you can have. It is okay to have as many acquaintances as you can, but you can only successfully nurture a few genuine friendships.
Communicate regularly with your friends to check up on each other’s well-being and to keep each other up to date with your lives. The little victories of each day are sweeter when shared and celebrated with friends. The small losses are also easier to bear when your friends are there to lend a sympathetic ear. Be kind and supportive and express your gratitude generously.
If you need to point something out, be careful with your words and do so constructively. If you have some differences that do not matter more than your friendship, agree to disagree over these. There are no two people who can completely agree on everything.
Be reliable by being available when your friends need you, even if it is just online. Keep your word when you commit to doing something. Own up to your mistakes and apologize promptly and sincerely.
Friendships for Life
Take care of your friendships so that they last a lifetime. Over the years, you gather more shared experiences and emotions that fortify your bonds. These make friendships more valuable and increase their positive effects on your life.
You are born into your family, but true friends are also family by mutual choice. You may not have blood ties, but your connection is no less precious. Friendships can make you live a longer, richer, and more joyful life.
To read more on topics like this, check out the Lifestyle category