Who do you choose to spend your time with? Are they people who support your priorities and well-being, inspire you to be great, cheer you on and champion your accomplishments? Do you surround yourself with people who encourage you in difficult moments? Are you nurturing good friendships?
It’s important to maintain good friendships. Be very aware of the friends you keep. Are they good influences? Do they support you as much as you support them? Do your friends frequently get in trouble? The type of people you choose to surround yourself with says a lot about what you stand for. Despite the altruistic persona you possess, bad company can corrupt the purest soul.
“Human beings have been crafted by evolution to live in closely knit social groups. When that is not happening, the biological systems … get overwhelmed,”Harry Reis, PhD, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Human Relationships
It’s obvious that the wrong friends can make it easier to find yourself in trouble, either by negatively influencing your decision-making or by perception. Have you ever heard the term guilty by association? If you run with a group that is frequently making bad choices and getting into trouble, outsiders could easily assume that you, too, are making the same bad choices. Many people have been punished for things that their company, not themselves, has done.
Good friends, on the other hand, can keep you on the right path. They aren’t afraid to call you out – respectfully – when you’re slipping. Ultimately, the right friends create a positive influence over your life.
To Your Health!
Friendships can motivate us to be healthier by making better lifestyle choices, such as eating better and prioritizing physical activity in our regular routine through sports or visiting the gym together. Feeling accepted and loved can even speed recovery from disease and injury.
Because of the positive benefits of friends, they might even help you live longer. A 2010 study on the subject concluded that “people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival [compared to] those with weaker social relationships.”
Stronger Circle, Stronger You
“Good friendships can benefit our mental health in so many ways: Friends reduce stress, make us laugh, help us feel known and understood, motivate us to take care of ourselves and reach higher, and fulfill the basic need of belonging,” said Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are.
By nature, humans are social creatures. Having friends increases your sense of belonging, which increases your value of self. Maintaining a socially active lifestyle reduces depression. This isn’t a shock because social isolation is clearly linked to higher rates of depression. Flora added, “to know there are people who care about you and who will carry you if you’re unable to take care of yourself gives a huge sense of security. A community provides a sense of identity and purpose, too.”
“The single biggest predictor of human happiness is the quality of [a person’s] relationships,” said Arthur Aron, professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He added, “If you’re facing a stressor and you’ve got the support of someone who loves you, you can cope better.”
The right friends teach you about yourself in regards to who you are and can help open your eyes who you want to be. They can expose you to new opportunities, new people, and even boost your grades by studying together or your career through networking. There are times where it really is all about who you know.
Everyone needs someone they can confide in and express their challenges to. The best of friends are willing to use their experiences and point of view to offer advice when you need it. Who is that friend you can call when you’re crying your eyes out at 2am? That’s a true friend.
Forging New Friendships
Being social isn’t easy for everyone. Not all of us are automatically able to express our feelings sufficiently or clearly. Having quality relationships makes life easier but, what if you don’t know how to make friends?
For starters, you have to make yourself available by mentally (and perhaps physically) stepping outside of your comfort zone. Everybody feels awkward sometimes. Don’t worry about it and definitely don’t let that prevent you from meeting new people.
Put yourself out there! Look for opportunities to start a conversation with someone new. An easy way to start a one is by commenting on a similarity. For example, if someone is wearing a t-shirt of your favorite show, tell them it’s your favorite. You never know what conversational spark that will ignite. And if that conversation fizzles out, don’t worry about it. There are literally billions of people on Earth. Lots of them would LOVE to have a friend like you!
Complimenting people is an easy way to start a conversation and potentially a new relationship. It feels good to be noticed, so let others know you see them. Try to be (or at least seem) sincere; smile and make eye contact.
Be Strong’s Student Representatives help bridge the gaps between social cliques at their schools through an initiative called We Dine Together, which is all about inclusion and forming lasting relationships. Student leaders prioritize creating positive social atmospheres and in turn, make sure no one has to eat alone. If you’re a student, get involved by joining your school’s We Dine Together crew, or have a teacher nominate you for the Student Rep program to start your own!