Friendsgiving and Why Healthy Friendships Are so important
Friendships are essential to our mental health and wellness. Learn why and read tips for strengthening your friendships.
by Nina Westbrook
Thanksgiving week is here and you know what that means…FRIENDSGIVING! Yes, yes, celebrating Thanksgiving with family is a beautiful tradition but Friendsgiving put a name to a tradition many of us have been honoring for ages - gathering to give thanks with friends we call our “chosen family.”
If we learned anything over the past few years, it’s the important role close friendships play in our day-to-day lives. Desperately missing in-person celebrations and those casual coffee talks, many of us found new and creative ways to connect with one another (think Zoom happy hours, virtual book clubs, non-stop text chains - the list goes on!). If you consider the powerful mental and physical benefits that come with strong friendships, it makes sense that we crave these authentic relationships in our lives.
Friendships and Mental Health
The mental health benefits of friendships begin in childhood. Friendships support the development of self-esteem and allow children to work on their social skills. In our adolescence, friendships are a source of emotional support and can prevent us from feeling alone during a time when we’re experiencing a great deal of growth and change. It appears that many of these benefits even extend into adulthood as Recent studies have shown that adolescents with robust social networks experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression well into the future.
Here are a few other mental health benefits of friendships:
Improved sense of purpose and belonging
Feelings of happiness
Reduced stress levels
Added support during traumas and hardships
Friendships and Physical Health
You know that friend who’s always inviting you to meet them for a Pilates session or walk in the park? Good friends can motivate us to foster a healthier lifestyle and can help us course-correct when we’re over-indulging in unhealthy habits. Friendships are also associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure and unhealthy body mass index among adults with some studies even showing that adults with vibrant social lives live longer than peers with fewer friends. Seems like a solid reason to invest in these relationships, don’t you agree?
So, How Can We Strengthen Our Friendships?
For us to enjoy strong friendships, we must be good friends to our friends while remembering that strong friendships aren’t built upon big acts alone. They’re built upon many thoughtful little moments and acts of kindness. Here are a few ideas that we hope prove helpful:
Listen up! Check in with your friends. Ask them how they’re doing and really listen to their answers. Before offering advice or chiming in with a relatable story of your own, you can ask open-ended (not yes or no) follow-up questions or validate the way they may be feeling in that moment. This approach is called active listening, and it’s incredibly effective when you want to help someone feel heard and understood.
Be kind. This seems obvious, but sometimes it’s the most basic things that can be the most impactful in a relationship. As often as you can, show basic courtesy to your friends. Honor their time and honor their trust. Be on time, don’t gossip behind their backs, and follow through whenever you say you’re going to do something.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable. If you’re experiencing hardship or feel stressed or depressed, try opening up to your trusted friends. Chances are that talking through an issue will make you feel better, will give your friend the opportunity to share their experiences and insight, and will ultimately strengthen your friendship.
The bottom line? Good friends are good for your health, so CHEERS to the hearts and souls who enrich our lives on every level! Happy Friendsgiving!