It goes without saying that having friends makes our lives easier, happier, and more meaningful. Isn’t it nice to have someone you can laugh with until your stomach hurts? With friends around, we feel less alone during the tough times and more joyful during the good ones.
Having strong friendships and being in the company of people who care about us can actually be beneficial to our health, well-being, and overall satisfaction. Not only do friends enhance our lives, but they also complete it to some extent. Because, honestly, how do we even live without our best friends?
In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of having quality friendships and how to nurture the ones that you already have to make them even more invaluable to you!
- Studies on friendship and the importance of good company
- 3 steps to nurture your friendships
- Wrapping Up
Developing (and maintaining) happy relationships is a crucial step towards long-term happiness. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. This topic is covered in more detail in the biggest guide on how to be happy in the section Social Happiness.
Studies on friendship and the importance of good company
Whenever we want to have some fun or be cheered up, we always turn to our friends because of the simple fact that we enjoy their company. And the stronger the connection that we have with them, the more it increases our happiness levels. Several studies support this.
Happiness from close friendships
In a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers investigated the relationship between friendship quality and happiness. The participants in the study were asked to enumerate their friends and rate them according to best, first close, and second close friendships. Then, their happiness levels were assessed in terms of life satisfaction and daily positive and negative affect in relation to these friendships.
It has been found that only the best friendship quality and first close friendship quality were predictors of happiness. Furthermore, the researchers also explored the features of friendship that may predict happiness. Among the features, companionship is the most significant predictor which proves that being in the company of our closest friends makes us truly happy!
Friendships through the hard times
Whenever we’re faced with difficult situations, finding the right support from our social network is important. One study has proven that there’s a significant positive association between friendship quality and resilience among socioeconomically vulnerable British adolescents.
Another also found that HIV-affected children in Kenya have strategically formed groups of friends to turn to for support during times of hardship.
Just today, in my group of friends from college, one was having a family issue that she was hesitant to share with the rest of us. Though we didn’t pressure her to open up, someone in the group reminded us that “a problem shared is already 50% solved.”
Because of the sense of safety that we’ve cultivated in our group, our friend was finally able to lay her burdens down and allow us to be there for her. After exchanging words of encouragement, our friend’s mood became palpably lighter and she switched back to her perky self again, letting us in on her latest K-pop obsession like any normal day.
I’m sure you’ve also had personal experiences wherein the support you get from your friends makes a huge difference when you’re going through a rough patch. Most times, our best friends always know the right thing to say (or do) at the right time, and we can’t be any more grateful that we have these angels in our lives.
Friendships also make us physically healthy!
With the increased life satisfaction that friendships bring us, surely it counts for something when it comes to our physical health.
Because our friends help relieve harmful stress, we may be less prone to stress-related problems in our coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and immune system.
So, yes, we can conclude that friendships do help us live healthier and longer lives!
3 steps to nurture your friendships
Now that we’ve established the life-saving importance of friendships in different aspects of our well-being, the question to ask is: How do we ensure that we only bring quality friendships into our lives?
By this time, we should already know that outgrowing friendships that no longer serve us is okay. On the other hand, cultivating the ones that are positive is even more crucial to enrich our lives.
According to author and TEDx speaker Shasta Nelson, there are three keys to a healthy friendship which are:
For Nelson, these requirements are essential to what she calls “frientimacy” or our intimate relationship with our friends. Here, I will break down the steps to nurturing healthy and rewarding friendships based on Nelson’s concept of true belongingness.
1. Connect with people who make you happy
The “positivity” in Nelson’s concept means connecting with people whose company we enjoy. It’s all about finding those whose wavelengths are similar to ours. Most of us usually find friends who have things in common with us, be it in interests, hobbies, or personalities.
Once you’ve found your people, you instantly feel less alone. Perhaps, you’re the only person you know who likes a certain fictional series. But then, you’ve stumbled upon an online group that has the same level of obsession that you have. Surely, this new-found tribe would make you even more enthusiastic about your interest just because you no longer feel like an outcast in it.
Having a connection with people who make you happy can surely up the quality of friendships that you have. Whether you’re talking about the same things or they simply spark an inexplicable light in you, make sure to stay close to these types of people because they are indeed for keeps!
2. Be consistent with your friendship
A crucial step to cultivating meaningful friendships is, of course, being consistent with our friends. One aspect of consistency is spending time with them on a regular basis.
Remember that childhood friend that you’ve lost touch with? Well, you’re no longer as tight as before because you don’t interact with them as much as you once did. So, if you want your friendships to last, it’s important to check in on them if you don’t naturally hang out on the daily.
Another way to be consistent is to be a reliable friend. Make sure that you don’t take your catch-ups for granted and flake on them. It’s important to show (and prove!) that they can count on you not just on those fun night-outs but also during their hour of need.
When we instill consistency in our friendships, we’re able to build history with them. The more time that we spend with them, the more that we get to know who they truly are and vice versa. And, this leads us to the third component which has something to with openness and trust.
3. Let yourself be vulnerable
A true friendship is one where you don’t have to try to be someone else. It is where you are accepted for exactly who you are. This means that you are able to be vulnerable with them without fear of judgment or abandonment. If you want to be really good friends with someone, then you must allow them to see through you – from the most amazing parts that you’re so proud of, down to the nastiest ones that breed insecurity.
If they’re the right people, then they will embrace you and teach you to embrace yourself, too! There’s nothing more beautiful than building relationships with someone who values you for everything that you are. There’s a sense of relief with these types of people; there’s trust, security, and openness.
Once you’re able to let your guard down with a friend, they, in turn, will also feel safe to do the same. And this is how real friendship develops – when you have shared vulnerability that refreshes and enriches your souls.
During these modern times, it’s so easy to meet and connect with lots of people. But, it has become rare to find friendships that are meaningful and long-lasting. Make sure that the ones that you have right now contribute to your well-being in the most positive and gratifying ways. Friends can be real life-savers if you know how to pick and keep them!
What did I miss? If there’s anything you would like to add or share, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Writer and counseling psychology student. Firm believer of validating one’s feelings, prioritizing the inner-self, and finding happiness in a plate of chicken curry.