The benefits of friendship might seem pretty self-explanatory. Someone to talk to, to go places with, and to celebrate your victories.
True friendship goes so much deeper.
Not only do close personal relationships
What Defines a “Friend”
In the modern world, the word “friend” is thrown around rather a lot, especially on social media. While you may know or be familiar with many people, true friends are rare and valuable.
The actual definition is a person with whom you have a mutual bond of affection. Familial and sexual relationships are defined differently. In my own experience, there are three categories to social interaction with those who aren’t within my family by blood or marriage.
3 Categories of Non-Family in Your Life
1. Acquaintance: These are people you know but don’t associate with on a personal basis. This is someone you’re polite to and interact with but wouldn’t invite them to your child’s wedding or call them on the phone to talk about the loss of a family member.
The majority of social media interactions fall into this category. These are people who may tag you, like or comment on your posts, and even share personal information but you don’t know them in the real world. When people give these types of virtual relationships more time, effort, and value than they deserve, it creates a façade that can lead to heartache, disappointment, and misunderstandings.
2. Colleague: These are the people you deal with in the sphere of your profession. Some may be satellite colleagues that you meet through others but all of them are in some way connected to what you do (or would like to do) for a living. Your interactions are based on ideas, mutual assistance, or even brainstorming. Again, you wouldn’t want to see them if you were in the hospital nor would you contact them in the middle of the night if there was an emergency.
The realm in which these people exist can sometimes cross into a slightly more personal aspect where you interact on social media, meet for drinks, or even attend the same functions but the ultimate goal is networking and idea-sharing.
3. Friend: These are people who are invested in your overall safety and happiness. There must be trust on both sides in regards to personal information, feelings, plans, and beliefs. Friends don’t have to be the same but they must be mutually respectful of the choices and direction each makes throughout the course of their lifetime.
Friends are the ones you call when you need help, when you’re experiencing a life-changing event, and to celebrate or grieve with you. You can call them on the phone at anytime of the day or night because you’ve established a bond, a connection, that surpasses social boundaries. They are the ones who are at your bedside, picking you up in the middle of the night when your car breaks down on the side of the road, or dancing at your child’s wedding.
Humans aren’t wired for isolation so it’s natural to gravitate toward experiences that include others. However, shared experiences don’t necessarily make someone your friend, nor does it make you their friend.
Establishing Strong Friendships
Most children make friends easily but we begin to lose the skill for forming new emotional attachments as we age. With years comes cynicism, a firm foundation of what we find acceptable, and trust isn’t given as freely.
Where kids are open, honest, and curious about the world at large, adults paint themselves into a box filled with their established “likes” and “dislikes,” rarely willing to step outside our comfort zone to embrace new people or ideas. This is particularly true if your social sphere is narrow, without many forays into different cultures, beliefs, or ways of life.
Life, work, raising children of our own, and the daily grind can get in the way of establishing new friendships and might throw up walls to making new friends.
There are also instances where a person finds it difficult to make friends no matter their age. Feelings of insecurity, social awkwardness, or a disability may make you pause before opening yourself to another human being. Unfortunately, people with these obstacles can be more susceptible to virtual relationships that may be unrealistic, toxic, or even dangerous.
Benefits of Friendship Depend on the People
Your friends should inspire positive feelings and ideas. Click To Tweet If you have a friendship that’s confrontational, judgmental, or unsafe then it contains a toxic element that’s ultimately bad for you and your future. You need people in your life that make you feel good about yourself and inspire you to be a better person.
The benefits of friendship are varied depending on the nature of your relationship but it’s important to evaluate the people in your life regularly to determine if it is a positive or a negative influence. Seeing the big picture rather than remembering what a great time you had on a road trip long ago will help you keep your friendships in perspective.
3 Questions to Evaluate Friendship
- Does the thought of spending time with your friend make you excited and happy or do you feel anxious, frustrated, or uncomfortable?
- Are you open and honest in your conversations or do you censor what you say, think, or feel around your friend?
- After spending time with your friend, do you feel pleasantly fulfilled or do you regret the time and attention you gave them?
The truth is that we may outgrow people in our lives. Maturity, different goals, and the pressures of daily life can strain relationships built on a shallow foundation. Sometimes, we end up liking vastly different things and friendships are unable to sustain the force of simple change.
5 Proven Health Benefits of Friendship
1. Lower risk of long-term disease. Research released by the University of North Carolina discovered that social bonds established in early life and toward the end of life lowered overall risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Professor Kathleen Mullan Harris stated, “It should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and social skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active.”
2. Being healthier right now. The same study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found lower incidences of chronic inflammation and abdominal obesity in participants who maintained a strong social framework. Fellow author and professor, Yang Claire Yang explained, “Doctors, clinicians, and other health workers should redouble their efforts to help the public understand how important strong social bonds are throughout the course of all of our lives.”
3. The ability to be yourself completely. People who see you as a friend help to solidify your place in the world and define your purpose. You’re more likely to try new things if you have people you trust at your side. Friends provide a supportive role but a great friend will also talk you through the possible blind spots in your plans. Without dashing your hopes and dreams, they may be able to see an alternative way to get where you want to go. You never want a “yes man” friend who nods and smiles no matter what you suggest but you also don’t want a toxic person who shoots down every idea.
4. A voice of reason when you need it. A true friend speaks and acts with your best interests at heart. They want to see you succeed, to be better, to do more because they love and respect who you are as well as your potential. This person won’t turn a blind eye if you have a drinking problem, if you’re involved in a toxic relationship, or if they think now is a great time to help you quit smoking. You won’t always like what they have to say but the friend who guards your back (even from yourself) should be prized.
5. Lower risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Being able to call someone you know will be there to talk, to listen without judgment, is often the true test of a friendship. Friendships boost self-confidence, self-worth, and overall happiness. During times of trouble, you might need to ask for help and that isn’t easy for most. Knowing you can ask for help and receive it from a person who doesn’t judge where you are at that moment might literally be the difference between life and death.
Friendships boost self-confidence, self-worth, and overall happiness. Click To Tweet
There’s no way to place a value on the true benefit of friendships. No matter what’s happening in your daily life or the problems you might be going through, the right friend can remind you to laugh, to love yourself, and stay strong.
Such a position is priceless…so make sure you reciprocate and be the sort of friend you most long to have in your life.