You might think it’s nice to have friends. But, did you know it’s actually good for your health? It can lead to a longer life and improved well-being. People with strong social ties have a 50% greater chance of survival than those with fewer social ties. When we have supportive and lasting relationships, we are more likely to make healthy choices and to have better mental and physical health. In fact, social connection can help prevent serious illness like heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression and anxiety.1
Make friends for your health!
So, what is friendship really? The American Psychological Association describes friendship as a voluntary relationship between two or more people. The relationship is mutually gratifying and lasts a long time. Friends care about meeting each other’s needs, as well as their own. These friendships often come about through shared experiences.2
How to be a good friend
Before you can be a good friend to someone else, you need to be a good friend to yourself. Show up for yourself as you would for a friend. Think about what you would like out of a friendship. Then, ask yourself how you can give it. Also, assume people like you. We can sometimes underestimate how likeable we are. But when we assume we are likeable, we tend to be more warm and friendly.3
- Be a good, active listener. Take a genuine interest in what people have to say and who they are.
- Expect not to agree on everything. It’s OK to have differences. In fact, we can learn and grow from them.
- Initiate conversations and make invitations for meeting up. It’s good to tackle loneliness head on. Learn why.
- Be consistent. Having to cancel plans every once in a while for a good reason is OK. But, try not to make backing out a habit. Commit to follow through.
- Share your heart. Talk about what you like and don’t like.
- Learn what’s important to your friend. If they care about their birthday, celebrate it. If they are passionate about a cause, find out about it and discuss it.
If you struggle with shyness, self-consciousness, anxiousness, low mood or anything else that makes connecting with others a challenge, know you’re not alone. There are people who can help. Our Mental Health service is confidential, and you can use it from the comfort of your home.
Learn more about our Mental Health service.
How to find good friends
There are many ways you can go about finding friends. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Many workplaces offer volunteer opportunities. Some even give paid time off to do them. Find one that fits your values.
- Join a club or take a class. See what’s offered locally through your library and community college or just by looking online.
- Think about what you like and look for an organization that supports it. Maybe join a religious, spiritual, nonprofit or other association.
- Talk to your neighbors.
- Wear a friendly face everywhere you go. You can make friends wherever you are. Start by being open. Make eye contact and smile.
Want more ideas? It might help to talk to someone outside your circle of influence. You can connect with one of our licensed therapists, confidentially.
Learn how to be a friend to yourself. Practice self-care.
Published August 18, 2023