Friendship and Mental Health
It’s always such a beautiful moment to have your friends around. Someone who was once a stranger has now devoted their time, loyalty, and utmost love to you without any obligations or strings attached—simply because they are your friend.
Letting a friend into your life means letting them bring a myriad of other things with them. Smiles, for sure, is one thing. And so are laughter, sadness, hugs, life-changing talks about this and that, countless hours spent in comfortable silence, and careful advice for your broken heart (that you surely will not follow). There are a ton of other things as well on the tip of my tongue, but if I mention them all, then I’d be writing a novel instead of an article.
Instead, I’d like to focus on one more thing that friendships help us with. One that is paramount to each and every one of us, yet maybe the most overlooked and forgotten: mental health.
Friendships and mental health. It sounds odd and unfamiliar, but somehow, it makes perfect sense.
Someone being there for you in your times of loneliness may seem like a common thing a friend would do, but e don’t realize how this benefits our mental well-being. A good friend can provide us with a sense of belongingness to help counter this loneliness, as well as make us realize our self-worth self-confidence, reduce stress and risks of depression, help us cope during the hard days, and encourage us to be better people for ourselves and for everybody else.
Healthy relationships can also diminish the chances of high blood pressure and a damaging body mass index (BMI). And in terms of mortality, adults with a well-established set of social relationships tend to live longer than those who prefer isolation. How cool is that?
With findings like this, it’s safe to assume that surrounding yourself with friends can only really do you more good than harm. But alas, it isn’t always that easy to form a connection, nor is it easy to maintain a friendship for as long as you’d like.
So how do you make a friend? According to the Mayo Clinic, one should first be kind.
It’s an obvious trait one should possess when around your circle and, most importantly, in everyday life. Through acts of kindness, we get to truly live as human beings, helping one another in the littlest ways that we can. It is also through kindness we get to meet those who also wish compassion upon us, and it is through kindness we learn how to take care of ourselves and the people we cherish and love.
Listen up. A friend is someone always willing to listen. This may be a silent act, but its impact is always powerful. Having someone to listen to your problems, thoughts, or rambles without judgment always means that you got yourself a very good friend.
Show that you can be trusted. Trust is an integral part of friendship. Forming trust within your peers is some sort of commitment that involves responsibility. In order to make deep connections, showing people that you are dependable and trustworthy is what will make them give you their trust in return.
Friendships, as easy as they seem to be, aren’t always rainbows and butterflies. We sometimes tend to forget that our friends are human beings like us who can feel just as sad and lonely as we do. When a friend is struggling, how do we help?
Katherine Martinelli from Child Mind Institute gives a few examples on how to support a friend with a mental health problem:
Validate what they’re saying. Letting your friend know that what they are feeling is valid and reasonable is a good step to take when talking to someone who just wants to be heard. Empathy can always go a long way, even in the shortest of instances. Show your friend that you care and that their feelings are valued and acknowledged.
Ask how you can help. It’s always good to ask, even if your friend doesn’t seem like they need it. Sometimes people don’t even realize that they need help unless someone points it out.
Be understanding of their limitations. Everybody has their limits. Respecting your friend’s boundaries and letting them do things at their own time and pace will not only lessen their anxiety, but it lets them know that by respecting their limits, you respect them as a person too.
Remember, friendships should never be restricted. A friend is a friend no matter if they’re older or younger, from the past or present, from right next door or a faraway place. And it is through enhancing our own mental health do we get to contribute to the mental well-being of those we love as well.
(2019). Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860
Martinelli, K. (n.d.). How to support a friend with mental health challenges. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/support-friend-with-mental-health-challenges/
Umberson, D. & Montez, J.K. (2010). Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022146510383501