It’s a fact: Friends are good for your health!

‘Nothing in life is more necessary than friendship.’ – Aristotle

According to the old Oxford Dictionary the definition of “friend” is: “A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.” But that doesn’t really sound like a friend, does it? It doesn’t explain the joy that friendship brings to your life. To celebrate this amazing phenomenon, International Day of Friendship is to be celebrated on July 30, 2021. Today we explore why close friendships are good for you.

Ever since researchers began to make links between loneliness and poor health about 25 years ago, the scientific literature on the value of friendship has exploded. Today, the data make a convincing case: Having people who care about us is good for our health.

Friends Are Good for Your Health, Physically

Turns out having close friendships is good for your body. A close circle of friends can decrease your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke amongst others.

Having strong social ties can also decrease feelings of loneliness, which evidence shows can take a toll on your lifespan. According to a 2010 review, people with strong relationships have half the risk of premature death from all causes. On the other side of the coin—loneliness and isolation—there are a myriad health issues that may arise: high blood pressure, substance abuse, heart disease, and even cancer.

Friends Encourage Healthy Behaviours

Friendships can help you make good choices. These can have a direct impact on your well-being. For example, you can start a new eating plan with a friend. Setting and maintaining goals is easier with a buddy by your side. A friend may also be the one to alert you to a problem you have – such as drinking too much.

Great friends have the power to mold you into the best version of yourself. They encourage you and push you to do better and be the person you want to be—your \”ideal self.“

Friends Give You Emotional Support

Friends can play a big role in helping you through a hard time. This seems all the more important in the current climate of hardship and doubt. Luckily research shows that happiness is contagious. For example, one study of high school students found that those who were depressed were twice as likely to recover if they had happy friends. Likewise, kids were half as likely to develop depression if their friends had a \”healthy mood.”

Friends Help Build Your Confidence

Nobody can be hundred percent confident of themselves at all times. Everyone has self-doubts and insecurities every now and then. But having friends who support you plays a big role in building your self-esteem. They offer praise and reassurance when you need it most. They’ll shine a light on you when you can’t do it yourself.

Friends Help You Beat Stress

If you have people you can count on in the hard times the hard times might not affect you as much to begin with. Spending time with friends reduces stress. According to Harvard Medical School, \”social connections help relieve levels of stress, which can harm the heart\’s arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system.\”

A lack of friends can leave you feeling lonely and without support, which makes you vulnerable to other problems such as depression and substance abuse.

A sense of belonging

We all want to belong, to know that we matter to others—that our life has purpose. In fact, belonging needs come in third on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, just after basic needs (food and shelter) and safety needs.

Developing and maintaining close friendships helps foster feelings of belonging. Caring about others also makes life more meaningful. When you care for others, you take on the responsibility of offering compassion and emotional support. This can make you a stronger, better person.

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