As many of us have realized in the last few months during the COVID-19 pandemic friendships can have a crucial impact on your health and wellbeing. Due to lockdowns, it has become more difficult to build and maintain friends. With restrictions lowering around the world, it’s necessary to understand the importance of friends already in your life and how to cultivate healthy ones to enjoy the healing power of friendship.
Even if you don’t realize it, good friendships are good for your health. They influence our long-term health in the same way as regular sleep schedules, nutritious diets, and routine exercise. There have been dozens of studies proving that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are not only happier, but also have fewer health problems and live longer.
In contrast, having a lack of social ties has been associated with depression, cognitive decline later in life, and even increased mortality. A 2010 study published in PLOS Medicine found that a lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. This increased risk is comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.
the health benefits of friendship
Friendship plays a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with healthy social support have a reduced risk of multiple serious health problems, such as depression, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Other benefits of friendship can include:
- An increased sense of belonging and purpose
- Boosted happiness and reduced stress
- Improved self-confidence and self-worth
- Helping you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encouraging you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
making friendships during the covid-19 pandemic
While it may feel difficult to make during the COVID-19 lockdown, there are opportunities. With plenty of applications and websites, such as Bumble BFF and Hey! VINA, you can easily make friends from the comfort of your own home who share your interests. You may also have possibly overlooked potential friends who are already in your social network. Maybe there’s someone you’ve been friends with in the past and lost touch, worked or taken classes with, or possibly even someone in your family.
However, with restrictions lowering and more places being allowed to reopen, there are more opportunities to go out and make friends. For example, here are a few ideas you can try:
- Attend community events. Use your newspaper or community bulletin board to find groups or clubs that share an interest or hobby of yours. Doing a Google search of your town along with community events or meet up will show you websites that can connect you with potential new friends.
- Volunteer. Offer your time and help to a shelter, community, center, or charitable group. You can form friendships with people you work with.
- Be open to giving and receiving invitations. Invite a friend out for coffee or lunch and be open to accepting invitations from others.
- Take up a new interest. Take a college or community education course to not only meet people but also find an enjoyable new hobby.
- Join a faith community. Participate in special activity and get-to-know-you events for new members
- Take a walk. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or local park and strike up a conversation with people who are also out.
what to look for and what to avoid
Even though the goal of enjoying the healing power of friendship is to make friends, the key is to focus on healthy ones. While meeting people and making friends, focus on the people who help you feel good while interacting with them. They’ll give you their attention, offering both approval and acceptance. These people will cheer on other’s, encourage them, and celebrate their victories.
In contrast, it’s vital to avoid the type of people that will provide toxic and unhealthy friendships. You may notice that these people will act out simply to get attention. Their behavior will be selfish, not easily sharing with others. Ultimately, time that you spend with them may leave you feeling tired and bad about yourself.
nurturing your friendships
Once you can identify the healthy relationships in your life, you can focus on maintaining them. It’s important to make sure that you are giving and taking, with the friendship being relatively 50-50. As critical as it is to surround yourself with good friends, it’s essential to be a good friend yourself.
Make sure that you remind your friends that you care about them. Be open to listening when they need someone to talk to and open up yourself. Sharing your thoughts and feelings helps you build intimacy and lets them understand you. Ensure that you remain reliable and dependable, which is key to forming strong friendships. This includes making an effort to see your friends or at least checking in to see how they’re doing. If you find yourself becoming nervous and imagining the worst of social situations, use mindfulness exercises to reshape your thinking. Even sharing these concerns with your friends can help them understand your anxiety and reassure you of your friendship. Ultimately, think of what you would like your friends to do for you and do your best to be that friend for them.
Always keep in mind that it’s never too late to reconnect with old friends or making new friends. Investing your time in building new friendships and strengthening ones you already have can help provide you with the healing power of friendship and a more positive outlook for years to come.