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5 surprising benefits of friendships

The benefits of friendship

Whether you met them at work, at the school gate or way back in primary school, friendships are a big part of our lives. And the research shows that there are more and more reasons to value your friendships. Read 5 surprising benefits f friendships below:  

Your mental health

Good friendships are shown to promote happiness, good health and reduce stress. Friends can share in our successes, celebrate with us and be part of creating happy memories. After a long week at work, it can be very therapeutic to talk to friends to destress. 

And on the other hand, friends can be a shoulder to cry on during tough times. Many studies show that those who report having strong social ties are better able to cope with stress and stressful situations. Even serious things like illness and disease can be easier to cope with if you have a strong support network of friends. 

Your physical health

Those coping with illness can benefit even more from close friendships. Studies have shown that having strong social connections may be able to improve the outcomes for serious illnesses and can help you even live longer. Older adults get clear benefits from social networks which can help ward off dementia and other illnesses.

The research has even shown that people are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes and obesity when they have positive friendships in their everyday lives – which is a big plus for anyone. Positive friendships are the key, as with any relationship, a toxic or unhealthy connection may result in the reverse – so remember to choose your relationships wisely.

Coping with difficult times

We all have to face difficult times in our lives. Everyone manages these times differently but having a buddy nearby can be beneficial. Our friendships can help us through these times by giving us a welcome distraction to take our mind off things or give us the chance to vent and unload our stresses. 

An outside perspective can help us solve our problems. Our friends can give us valuable advice, especially if they've known you for a long time and know you well. Trusted friends, old and new, may have ideas that you haven’t thought of to cope, manage or even resolve some of your issues. Sometimes this advice can be even better than from a family member or a spouse since they probably do not have as many conscious or unconscious biases when giving you advice.

Your social skills

While the early building blocks of your social skills start at home with your parents. As you grow, school and play are a big part of developing your social self and learning to get along with others. Researchers have found that these interactions with others – especially navigating friendships through the ups and downs – greatly impact your abilities to deal with other people.

Healthy relationships and learning boundaries can have surprising effects on your professional life. These connections prepare you for dealing with people throughout your life in different settings.

Promoting good habits and goals

Your friends can have a huge influence on your life path. Being around people that promote healthy habits, such as eating well, exercising and staying away from addictive substances, make it more likely that you yourself will have a healthy and positive lifestyle. Diet and exercise experts stress the benefits of having a gym buddy or someone to share in diet and weight-loss goals. You are more likely to stick to good habits if you are accountable to someone else who shares in these.

Mentally, we are influenced by those around us and our social circles can give a boost for our self-esteem and life goals. Being around like-minded people with similar life goals can mean that you'll be able to share in similar ups and downs and advise each other accordingly. 

Friendships for life matter

As mentioned earlier, friendships start when we start interacting with others at a very young age. Other milestones after going to school are important as well, and so are the friendships you develop. An interesting study from the Association for Psychological Science has found that adolescent boys with rich social lives are more likely to be at a healthy BMI and lower blood pressure when they reach adulthood.

As you age, friendships come and go and change. But what is constant is the need for interaction with other people as we go through life. Making friends as you get older can be harder, so stay active whether it is in your community, participating in sport or hobbies and at work. Feel like you could use more friends in your life? Be proactive (but not pushy) with the people you are around and make sure to schedule the time to get to know them or maintain those friendships.

Social media can help rekindle friendships

With the digital and social media age, many people are wondering how that impacts our friendships. On the positive side, friends have never been easier to reach – interest groups on Facebook and community forums are great ways to connect with like-minded people throughout the world. When online, use common sense because not everything is as it seems. But keep an open mind and enjoy the ability to talk with others that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to encounter.

Social media is also a great way to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Been thinking about your old bestie from your school days? With a few clicks online, you can get in touch with them. Take note in remembering to use common courtesy when reaching out to people that aren’t expecting to hear from you.

Luckily, most people are happy to hear from old friends and you can even turn an old friendship into a current friendship. Don’t forget to remember the simple things and meet your old friends in person, if possible, for a cup of coffee or a shared interest. Studies have also shown that reconnecting with old friends can bring a new, close friendship faster than getting to know a completely new person.

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