My 9 – year anniversary was yesterday, which is always a tough time for me. But in the midst of the complicated emotions, I’m so grateful for the close friendships that are getting me through it all. I want to discuss the important role that friendships play in your overall mental health. From toxic friendships to so-close-you’re-basically-family friendships, these relationships are a major factor in your mental and emotional health.
Have you ever had a friend who just gets it? Without words! A friend who knows what you’re thinking and what you need before you even say it? The kind of friend who is there for you on good days and bad – for the fun and the tears.
As opposed to those fair weathered friends. The friends who don’t want to be around on the difficult days. The friends who show up for the good times. The fun times. They can’t be found if you need them.
Friendships absolutely are fun, and we all need fun in our lives. But real friendships, deep friendships, healthy friendships involve much more than fun.
In fact, your friendships play a huge role in your mental health.
A good network of friends decreases your risk of anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure. Staying socially active throughout your life is associated with better late-life satisfaction. And healthy friendships improve self-confidence, reduce stress, and enrich every aspect of our lives.
Healthy friendships allow you to talk about what’s going on in your life – both good and bad. For instance, if you’re experiencing stress, talking to friends is an important step in working through the overwhelm that you’re feeling. When you bottle things up, it negatively impacts your health. But talking with friends helps you reframe your emotions and experiences.
Healthy friendships can even positively impact your physical health. One study found that friendships impact the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Another study, conducted over 10 years, found that older individuals with strong friend networks were less likely to die during the study.
But how can you tell if your friendship is healthy?
Ask yourself these questions to determine whether your friendships are healthy or toxic:
This isn’t a complete list, but these questions can be a starting point in making sure that your friendships are healthy.
Creating healthy friendships takes work – just like any relationship!
Letting someone new into your life can be scary and overwhelming – especially during difficult times. It’s intimidating to be vulnerable with someone. And when that person is a new friend, it’s even scarier. After all, what happens if they reject you? What if your vulnerability is ‘too much, too soon’?
When you’re making a new friend, your mind might race through every possible worst – case scenario. That’s normal. You’re allowed to be scared. But don’t let that stop you from making new friends – it’s absolutely worth it! Friends are an integral part of the healing process. We aren’t built to do it all alone.
Take a minute to consider all of the ‘what if,’ best – case scenarios. Consider the adventures that are possible!
How do you create healthy friendships that make your life better?
It starts with meeting new people.
If you want to make new friends, you have to seek out people you’ve never met! If you are going through a loss, you may find that grief groups are a good starting point. But open yourself up to new experiences and opportunities! Take a class. Join a book club. If you like fitness, find a walking or running group nearby. Volunteer. The important thing is to lean into your interests and values to find people you can relate to and you have things in common with – that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically connect, but it means you have something in common, and that’s a place to start.
Once you start meeting people, be open to having conversations with them… one-on-one and in small groups. Grab a coffee together. Plan a brunch outing with 2 or 3 of your new friends. Go shopping, visit a park, or just run errands together. Sometimes sharing in life’s most mundane activities is the best way to get to know someone on a deeper level. Figure out who you really ‘click’ with, and invest more time in those friendships.
Friendship is a give-and-take. When you’re going through a rough patch, you’ll need to lean on your friends for support. And when they’re going through a difficult time, it’s your turn to be there for them. It doesn’t have to be completely ‘equal’ at all times, but it should be well-balanced overall. Make sure that you are nurturing your friendships, and being nurtured by them in return.
I hope that you take some time this week to think about the friendships in your life! Call a friend. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Check up on them and see how they’re doing. Life is hard, but it’s better together.
Have you registered for Ruthless in the Rockies yet? If you want to connect with others who are going through life’s ups and downs – this retreat is a great place to start. There are just a few spots left if you want to stay in the retreat space with us! Learn more and register here.
And remember, you can reach out anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org