She’s the one you text in the middle of the night after getting into a nasty fight with your husband. She’s the person you love to share a bottle of wine or bar of chocolate with. She’s your best friend, but you consider her a sister.
As it turns out, friends don’t just feel good, they are good! Research has long promoted the benefits of friends and mental health. But, as women, why are close friendships important? And what do you do if you don’t have those kinds of relationships in your life?
Friends Provide Support and Comfort
Life can be painful. We experience job changes, relationship breakups, and midlife crises. We encounter hardship, loss, and tragedy. During these difficult times, many of us feel afraid and vulnerable. We may question our life trajectories, and we may wonder if things will ever get better.
Sure, friends are great when life is great. But the camaraderie and connection that friends provide when life becomes challenging are invaluable.
That’s because good friends help you during these proverbial rough patches. They know how to show up, and they have your back. They offer shoulders to cry on, arms for hugs, and ears that don’t tire of listening.
Friends Create A Sense Of Belonging
It is essential for all of us to feel a sense of belonging on this planet. Without this guiding purpose, it’s easy to fall into traps of self-loathing or negative beliefs that life is meaningless.
We are the products of the relationships we share with others. These dynamics shape our self-esteem. They are what create fulfillment and joy in ways that material things or external accomplishments cannot provide.
Friends make us feel connected and valuable. To have good friends, we must be good friends ourselves. Knowing this motivates us to work on ourselves, which perpetuates more of a sense of belonging and meaning in this world.
Friends Decrease Mental Health Problems and Promote Longevity
Do you want to live a long and meaningful life? Look no further than people with quality relationships. Those are the people who are living happily!
Research shows that people with strong and healthy social ties tend to have the highest chances of survival regardless of sex, health status, and age. In fact, the health risk associated with nonexistent or poor friendships was likened to smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
This phenomenon is particularly important among older adults. At this time, life can be undoubtedly challenging. Many people face stressors related to health concerns, career changes or retirement, family changes (children leaving the home, family members getting sick), and other identity struggles. Friends provide validation and reassurance during these transitions.
Getting More Out Of Your Relationships & Finding New Friends
Friendships require conscious intention and effort. They are a balancing act of take-and-give. You need to be willing to open yourself to closeness and trust to receive it.
In our adult lives, making and sustaining friendships can be undoubtedly challenging. We balance so many other relationships and tasks throughout our days. It’s easy to neglect friends for responsibilities like family and work.
Focus On Quality
Friendship isn’t a popularity contest. When it comes to meaningful relationships, it’s not about the number of likes on Facebook or how many Christmas cards you receive in the mail.
Don’t get caught up in the hype that you need a “massive tribe” of friends to be happy. By focusing on nurturing a few relationships, you allow yourself to deepen your capacity for more intimacy. It’s hard to be intimate with that many people!
Pursue Your Hobbies and Interests
Whether it’s rock climbing, ballroom dancing, or volunteering at the animal shelter, some of your best friendships probably lie ahead of you!
Making friends as an adult isn’t as straightforward as it is when you’re a child. When you’re young, your neighborhood, school, and clubs can make forming friendships seem automatic. You also don’t have all the daily hustle of life bogging you down!
As an adult, these relationships take more work. If you want to find people who share similar values and experiences, you need to look at where you enjoy spending your time!
Sometimes, this requires stepping out of your comfort zone. However, this may be the incentive you need to sign up for a new class or finally commit to that local Meetup group.
Your Friends and Mental Health
Friendships aren’t just a “nice” luxury. They are the backbone of your emotional well-being. There is a direct correlation between quality friends and mental health. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it may be time to reassess the quality of relationships in your life.
Are you struggling with loneliness? Finding it difficult to make or keep friends? Therapy can help you identify some of the barriers that may be getting in your way.