Friends can challenge us, confuse us, and sometimes, we might wonder why we bother. But friendship is as important to our well-being as eating right and exercising. What’s more, friendships help us grow through each year of our lives.
The friends we meet in school teach us how to be patient, wait our turn, reach out, and try new hobbies. When we move into young adulthood we learn more about taking responsibility, finding a career path, and seeking out people as mentors.
As we continue into our 40s and beyond, we learn to weather the ups and downs in life, and once again friends provide a sounding board and place for us to grow. Friendship is key to our success with all our relationships and it can create a sense of purpose in our lives.
The people we bring into our lives as friends will show us how to forgive, laugh, and make conversation. The basic components of any relationship, from our marriage to our coworkers, are all founded in friendship. We learn how to interact with people because of our friends, even the ones that are opposite from us or share a different worldview.
We don’t just talk with others but learn from them. These people help push us out of our comfort zones while still providing a safe emotional space for us to be totally ourselves.
One of the most overlooked benefits of friendship is that it helps keep our minds and bodies strong. In fact, it’s as important to our physical health as eating well and keeping fit. A recent Harvard study concluded that having solid friendships in our life even helps promote brain health.
Friends helps us deal with stress, make better lifestyle choices that keep us strong, and allow us to rebound from health issues and disease more quickly.
Friendship is equally important to our mental health. One study even suggested spending time with positive friends actually changes our outlook for the better. That means we’re happier when we choose to spend time with happy people. (All the more reason to leave that toxic friendship behind.)
Friends don’t completely cure loneliness (that’s a common myth) but they do help us during lonely times. We learn how to accept kindness and also to reach out when we need help. Those painful times when we might be without friends also help us to appreciate the friendships that come in and out of our lives.
Having a steady stream of friends lets us know that some friendships won’t last forever but each one brings something special. We learn more about ourselves and how important it is to have someone, just one person, who knows and understands you. This is the key to coming out of loneliness.
Friends can change our value system so we learn to inject more meaning into our lives.
In spending time with friends, we fill up our lives with great conversation, heartfelt caring and support, and laugh out loud fun. When we fall on hard times, friends are there to put things in perspective and help us. When we have success, they’re smiling at our good fortune. With down-to-earth, positive people in our life we will be more mindful of gratitude and doing nice things for others. We don’t just live when we have healthy friendships, we thrive.