The UN International Day of Friendship encourages peace, happiness, and friendship for everyone across all cultures and countries. Even though there are many challenges in the world trying to destabilize friendships, nurturing true friendships through trust and connections, regardless of race or beliefs, has invaluable benefits for our mental health and well-being.
What is friendship?
Friendship is a shared affection, trust, and concern for well-being between individuals and/or groups. From an early age children form friendships, and they continue to be important for our emotional development at every life stage. For children, making friends is a vital part of their social and emotional development, including social skills, selflessness, empathy, self-esteem, and confidence. These skills all positively contribute to their ability for cultivating friendships throughout their childhood and beyond. Senior adults living socially active lives also report a more satisfying life. No matter how old you are or what you are going through, healthy friendships have a positive impact on mental health.
When we talk and listen respectfully to each other our sense of belonging and acceptance increases. Our friends also keep us grounded and help us put things in perspective. A good heart-to-heart with a friend can make you feel like things aren’t as dire as you first thought, and they can even help put plans in place to improve any problems. Friends share interests and passions and enthusiastically chat about favourite topics for hours. It is worth putting effort into maintaining friendships and making new friends. People lacking social support are more likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Tips for making new friends:
have a positive mindset about making friendships
visit favourite places
participate in social groups and hobbies
adopt the qualities you want in a friend
set goals to make small talk
be authentic and smile
move on if it’s not working out
Whatever the situation, it is important to not to get disheartened. With enough confidence, and patience, you can form positive new friendships.
Mental health and toxic friendships
A healthy friendship requires a balance where each friend has their needs met. Our friendships have an enormous impact on our lives, and it is important to make sure you feel supported, understood, and happy in your friendships. A toxic friendship can have an immense negative impact on our mental health. Toxic friendships leave us feeling drained, suffocated, unsatisfied and often powerless. Friendships are a part of so many aspects of our lives from family, work, sports, education to special interests. When we have a toxic friendship, these negative feelings can infiltrate all these areas too. This can cause all sorts of chaos and unfortunately if a friend isn’t meeting our needs, it may be time to re-evaluate whether they should be a part of our lives. It is a difficult decision to make and ultimately your mental health will improve when all your friendships are healthy and have a positive influence on your well-being.
Friendships benefit our mental health by:
making us laugh
fulfilling our need for belonging
helping us feel understood
encouraging us to take care of ourselves
motivating us to reach for goals
improving physical health
encouraging healthy choices
being emotionally supportive
getting us through traumatic events
building our confidence
pushing us to do our best
teaching communication skills
learning new skills
inspiring one another
encouraging one another
developing social skills
Whether our friendships are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime cherish the moments we have with them and focus on the ones who lift us up, encourage and support us, and nurture our mental health.