Life is an incredible journey and having friends is one of the really good parts of travelling that road. For the good times, like going places you enjoy and sharing exciting news and successes. And for the bad. When life is tough, sometimes you need someone to talk to, to vent to, or to offer you advice. For those in relationships, sometimes the right listener is your significant other. But not everyone has a significant other or romantic partner. Even for those who do, sometimes that isn’t the right person, especially when your tough situation involves them. 

Friendship is Good for Your Health

Beyond the most common benefits like these, there are significant and truly measurable benefits to having friends. No matter how few or many you count in your corner. Let’s look at the top four mental health benefits of investing in friendship:

  1. Increases Happiness. Let’s face it—sharing your life with others can be rewarding. Loneliness causes a whole host of other problems, so it makes sense that having friends in your life would do the opposite. Although measuring happiness is subjective, and many people are quite happy and satisfied to do things solo, many activities benefit when shared with others. From exercise buddies to a group of friends you go to the theater with, combining friendship and social activities increases happiness.
  2. Reduces Stress. Stress is one of the most significant contributors to heart disease and it plays havoc on the body in other ways, too. Frequent contact with people who care about you (hello, friends!) has been proven to combat this problem. With the opportunity to vent to your friends or the support they give you during difficult times, friendship provides the support that can help stressed out people bounce back.
  3. Decreases Depression. We all hit hard times, and it can make us feel situational depression. In those cases, encouragement and support of a few close friends can really build you up. Studies have shown friendship improves your resilience in emotional situations. Including romantic breakups, deaths in your family, loss of a job, and even recovery from abuse or trauma. And long-term friends often have insight into your personality and can lead you through challenges. They understand what your strengths and weaknesses are.  

Note: Clinical depression is more than feeling sad. It isn’t situational depression from something like a death in the family or discovering you have a medical condition. Friends can be a key source of support for people with clinical depression. However, individuals experiencing major depression usually require counseling and possibly medication to recover.

  1. Increases Confidence and Self-Esteem. Social acceptance is a hallmark need for humans of all kinds. Knowing that you belong somewhere is a confidence builder. And the sense of identity gained through connections with others is crucial to self-esteem. Knowing you have someone to fall back on, someone who has your back, gives you the confidence to try new activities, overcome fears, and take risks.

So, on Make a Friend Day, let’s celebrate those people in our lives who offer so much more than they even realize.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash