When life gets busy, it seems like our to-do lists never end. We focus on the tasks that we have to get done to meet our real or self-imposed deadlines. Our focus on productivity is practical. But, it can also mean that the people and relationships in our lives get moved to the back burner. That’s why we want to pull our friend relationships back into focus. You see, friendships give back key benefits that are integral to our overall well-being. Friendships help us feel happy, balanced and productive. And they can give us the fuel to tackle those to-dos too. So, let’s take a pause to reflect on the importance of friendships and talk about tips to strengthen ties in our own lives.
Why do we have friends?
A friendship is a relatively long-lasting relationship that two or more people choose.1 Each person generally cares about meeting the others’ needs and interests, and their own as well.1 Usually, friendships start from shared experiences or interests where people enjoy the association with one another.1
People make friends because friendships feel good! Friendships help us feel unique, special and cared about.2 These positive vibes are good for our overall happiness, mental health and well-being.2 People who have close friends they trust generally feel more satisfied with their lives.3
The good feelings from friendships can help our physical health too. Friendships help regulate how our hearts and hormones naturally respond to stressful situations.3 They can boost our longevity and help protect us from heart problems and chronic diseases.3 And, doing hard work can even feel easier when we’re working with a friend.3
Friendships also help protect us from the dangers of low social connection. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can erode our overall well-being and even shorten our lifespan.3
What inspires us to form friendships?
Friendships take more than people and a place. There also needs to be a spark that inspires people to form a bond. Reasons people make friendships can include:2
- Getting support. Folks may want to share life’s ups and downs with someone. They may want a friend to do things with or go out with. Maybe they’re trying to make a life change and want new social behavior norms that line up with their goal.3,4
- Finding a partner. A person might be attracted to another and interested in a romantic relationship. Friendship is an important component of long-term bonding. Warmth and chemistry help build stable relationships between friends as well as romantic partners.4
- Sharing desired traits. Some people are drawn to traits in other people, like shared opinions and interests. Maybe they love their sense of humor, integrity or trustworthiness.
- Socializing. Community and companionship can inspire people to make friends. When we feel accepted, it can give us a sense of social place and grounding.2,3
- Advancing career goals. A person might find common ground with others in the professional arena. They might find opportunities to work together to advance and accomplish work-related goals.
Have friendship questions you want to ask? Create your Teladoc Health account to schedule your appointment with one of our mental health providers.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the reasons why people make friendships, let’s shift gears to learn how to grow and support connections in our day-to-day lives. We’ve rounded up some tips from experts that might be useful for your friendship toolkit.
6 tips to support and strengthen friendships
- Boost everyday connections. Day-to-day life helps you cross paths with many people.3 Next time you’re in a line at the store, take a moment to make eye contact, say hello, chat with someone or ask a question.
- Be curious. It feels good when someone shows an interest in us. Engage a person with your own curiosity about their life and interests.3,5
- Practice active listening. People feel valued and connected with their conversation partner when they show that they’re listening and getting what they’re saying.6
- Assume people like you. People generally underestimate how well they are liked.6 When we come into a conversation believing we’re liked, we become warmer and friendlier, which can help build connections.6
- Welcome closeness. Being emotionally open can feel scary when we haven’t done much of that. But making ourselves available for closeness can help us build strong friendships.6
- Be consistent. Just like any other healthy habit like exercise, we need to practice friendship regularly to keep it going.6 Embrace the saying, “To have a friend, be a friend.”5
Taking a moment to reflect on the friendships in your life can help you see patterns and gaps that you can act on. You can write down your thoughts or simply think about them in quiet moments. Helpful thought-starters include:
- What do you love about your friendships?
- How alike are you and your friends?
- Do you have any unlikely friendships? Why?
- What makes you feel loved, supported, cared for and seen?
- How do you show up for your friends? And how do they show up for you?
As we go into the holiday season, let’s be mindful that these times can be joyful for some and stressful for others. Having friends to lean on can help us feel better and boost our well-being. Let’s make it a practice to remember our friends and invest in the close connections we have in our lives.
Online mental health resources
Want to learn more about relating to other people? We can help. At Teladoc Health, we’ve made mental healthcare more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual appointment, you can speak with a mental health counselor right from your home, your office or wherever you’re most comfortable. We’re here to help you get started today!
Published October 10, 2023