How To Be A Better Friend (Even Though We’re All Stressed Out)
These days feel like a hectic time to be focusing on making and maintaining friendships. We’re coming off the heels of a global pandemic and trying to recall how we used to function in our daily lives. Yet, as stressed out as we all may be, having quality friendships is key to better mental health.
The Benefits Of Quality Friendships On Your Mental Health
Strong, healthy friendships have countless positive effects on the mind and body. Even though allowing yourself to be vulnerable around others may seem scary, the health advantages of friendship are well worth the effort. Here are a few of the benefits:
Loneliness is often dubbed the “silent killer” due to its detrimental effects on our overall health. A 2020 Cigna study shows that 71% of millennials are lonely, with people of color having the highest percentages. Having someone you can rely on, especially when you’re feeling down, can make all the difference. Even in the “socially distanced” time we’re currently living in, being able to call, text, or FaceTime someone you trust can reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
Friendship should never feel like a competition. True friends will build your self-confidence by reminding you of your best qualities and never playing on your insecurities. When you’re feeling down about yourself, friends are our shoulders to cry on and our biggest cheerleaders. They also encourage us to leave our comfort zones and explore activities we might not have felt comfortable doing alone. Even the scariest things can seem that much less so when you have a good friend holding you down.
Improved Overall Health
A good friend is someone who supports your highest and greatest good. People who feel supported by their friends are less likely to struggle with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Quality friendships can also improve physical health as friends encourage us to make healthy choices like eating right and exercising. Research from the Society of Behavioral Medicine shows working out with a friend can increase your exercise time and intensity by as much as 200 percent.
Why Do Friendships Fade?
Even the closest friendships can disintegrate for a myriad of reasons. Whether it be the expectations we set for others or the sheer amount of effort it takes to keep a friendship afloat, some friendships just don’t stand the test of time.
We all have opinions on what makes a good friendship. Unfortunately, based on studies conducted by Tel Aviv University, we’re not all that great at judging our own relationships. More often than not, we tend to believe our friendships are more reciprocal than they actually are. We want to believe our friendships are bidirectional, or equal in the amount of effort put in, but this discrepancy will eventually create rifts between us and our friends. A healthy, functional friendship requires the effort to be shared 50/50.
Quarantine taught us a lot about who we really are. Suddenly, all of our past ambitions were seen from a different perspective, and our new goals may not align with those of our friends. One of the most common reasons friendships fall apart is because people’s interests and values change over time. Watching a friend choose a different path and begin disconnecting from you can be a painful experience. What matters most is that both of you are doing what is best for yourselves first.
Too Much Upkeep
A friendship is just like any other relationship, it needs to be nurtured with time, attention, and energy. That being said, the amount of effort required to keep a friendship strong is subjective to each person. Some people simply require more attention and affirmation than others. When they don’t feel like they’re getting as much as they’re giving, they may start to distance themselves from the friendship. All friendships require effort, but it’s up to you to decide how much work each relationship is truly worth.
How To Be A Better Friend Today
Listening to your friends seems like a no-brainer. However, we all get so caught up in our own lives it’s easy to zone out when a friend is going on and on about their life. Repeating back simple phrases like “I understand why you’re feeling ____” or “I know you’re upset about _____” will let your friend know that you’re listening and their feelings are being considered.
- Empathize, Don’t Judge
Arguably, the best part of having a good friend is knowing you can tell them anything without judgment. Though you may not agree or even understand some of your friends’ choices, it’s important they know that you have their back. Put yourself in their shoes and think of how you would want to be supported in a similar situation. They should be willing to do the same for you when the tables are turned.
- Be Their Hype-Woman
Be the friend that always leaves positive comments and likes on your friends’ social media selfies. Give them compliments on their makeup, style, or work ethic. When they’re down, let them know you have their back. When they’re up, tell them how happy you are for them. Moral support is the cornerstone of a good friendship.
- Show Appreciation
Just like romantic relationships, little acts of gratitude toward friends can tighten your bond. There’s no need for grand gestures. Treat a friend to ice cream, offer to run an errand for them while you’re out, or invite them over for a meal. Even sending a quick text telling a friend how grateful you are to know them will strengthen your friendship.
- Talk It Out
Too many friendships fall apart because of small issues that were never communicated properly. If a friend does something to upset you, bring it to their attention immediately. Likewise, if you feel you’ve hurt your friend, make sure to clear the air. A valuable friendship is never worth losing to poor communication.
Quality Over Quantity
Seeing women with fifteen bridesmaids on Instagram can feel like a blow when you’re over here struggling to juggle two friends at one time. Bear in mind, the amount of friends a person has says nothing about their character. Friends aren’t action figures, there’s no need to collect them all. One solitary best friend trumps sixty pseudo-friends any day.
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