How do our friendships affect our mental health in a positive way? Psychologists explain.

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True friends are like family members which get to choose for yourself making the bond more special. You have all watched depictions of different kinds of friendships in movies and TV shows growing up. From the famous sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S to the evergreen movies like 3 Idiots, Dil Chahta hai, zindagi na milegi dobara, rang de basanti, English vinglish which fill us with the desire of having such friends in our lives too. The bond which the characters share in the stories be it the friendship between Chandler and Joey or Monica and Rachel or being a Rancho to Farhan and Shashi and her English learning course classmates explore multiple layers of friendships.

Friends are very crucial part of our emotional, social and psychological growth. Human beings are inherently social creatures and having social relationships is also an important factor for survival. Children understand the need for peers around the age of 4 to 5 years when they are of preschool age. They learn to make friends by playing with each other, sharing toys, helping each other, sitting beside each other in the classroom. Having peers help a child in enhancing their communication skills, social skills and behavior, as well as aid in emotional growth. It helps them to adjust to a new environment and instill a feeling of belongingness towards their new surroundings. 

Let us explore why having friends in our lives is so important?

Friends are an important part of our lives irrespective of the age group we may belong in. Whether it is growing old with our childhood friends and sharing each milestone and achievements with them or making new friends during our adult life, we collect memorable moments that stay with us till the end. Having someone who is like-minded or someone is completely opposite from us, someone who we like to talk to and who listens to us, stays with us through thick and thin, leads to a strong and beautiful friendship bond. Healthy friendships make us feel wanted, supported, someone who is reliable and there for us which reminds me of the title track of F.R.I.E.N.D.S sitcom “I will be there for you, because you are there for me too”. Healthy friendships never one-sided, it is when both individuals reciprocate care, respect, support, love for each other while also maintaining proper boundaries and giving each other personal space. 

How do friendships impact our mental health positively?

Let us think of a few scenarios before proceeding further, 

Remember going to the office and your favorite colleague messages you they are not coming…. Or going through a heart break and you need your besties to be there with you to share your pain…Think of the time when you have achieved your dream after much hard work and you want to break the news to your friends who have been there with you in your journey and who would rejoice in your happiness. 

  1. Having someone who makes you feel heard off by listening to you. There are times when we feel safe to share our deepest secrets or thoughts with our friends instead of our parents or family members. Being surrounded by true and reliable friends helps in maintaining our well-being and good health. Having someone to share our thoughts, dreams, experiences and desires with the confidence that they will not judge us and hear what we want to say without sharing it with anyone.

  2. Having someone who accepts you the way you are. There are situations in life when you might often have behaved and acted differently to be accepted, but when it comes to friends you know you can be yourself without thinking twice. There might be times when you may go through some emotional and psychological issues and feel lonely and hesitate to share with your friends, at such times friends might come to your aid and be there no matter what and stand with you, trying to make you feel happy and ready to hear what you are going through. It is a fact that sharing your issues and your bad experiences with friends will help you feel relieved and relax and feel less lonely. 

  3. Friends make us feel belonged and needed. Be it school, college, office or hostel, we feel more at home when we make friends. Someone to sit with, to talk to, share food with, have fun, study or do group projects, or work with contributes in motivating us to complete the course or stay in the job. It fills us with the sense that we belong to the place which helps in boosting our self- esteem. 

  4. Spend quality time with friends helps as a stress buster. Meeting friends after a long and hard working, spending time with them chatting over your favorite game or how your day was or reminiscing your old memories helps in reducing our stress. It may help in relieving your mental burden. Eg. Long travelling hours, too much workload, conflicts with family members all these tend to increase your stress bucket, but when you share this with your friends your bucket lightens and you feel fresh and charged up to take on the world.

  5. Friends at times act as your mirror. There are times when you may question yourself or the choices you made. Times when you are unsure of what to do or when you lose yourself due to something. It is your friends who give you honest opinions and help you come around. They help motivate and become a guiding force when you need someone the most.

  6. A friend in need… A true friend is always there in both your good times and your bad times. They will support you in sharing your sadness, lend their shoulders to cry on and cry with you eg- being ill, losing your job, death of a loved one. A friend will be there to help you cope, may also accompany you to the doctor, etc.

True Friends make our lives enjoyable, and worthwhile and add to our happiness quotient but at the same time remember that if you are going through any mental health issues or emotional turmoil, seek a mental health professional. If you see your friend going through any issues which have been affecting their well-being do not hesitate to guide them and advise them to visit a Psychiatrist/Psychologist.

Also, check out our blog on Small ways to help your friend deal with anxiety or How to Support a Colleague Through a Mental Breakdown at Work? Find Mental Health Clinics Near You.

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