When I was younger I always thought that the more friends I had the better. Now I am older I realise that it is rather the quality of the friendships I have that truly counts. Studies have now shown that in our twenties if we have many friends it leads to greater happiness in our forties and fifties but, interestingly, in our thirties it is the quality and strength of the friendships that determine our happiness later in life. I have to admit I have certainly found this to be true. Whether you are in your twenties or thirties no one can deny that having friendships is critical to having good mental health.
Like anyone, there have been periods where I have had to face challenges and tough times and in these moments I have always managed to endure thanks to the support of my friends. The importance of honest advice, encouragement and an understanding and empathetic shoulder to lean on should never be underestimated.
Having such a support network is pivotal to sustaining good mental health at times when we could otherwise feel quite isolated and alone. Friends can offer us comfort by providing a more balanced and often realistic perspective, enabling us to appreciate that our problems may not be as bad as we first suspected. Likewise, our joys are their joys also, with our friendships giving us the opportunity to share our life with those that care.
It is natural that these benefits of friendships would directly translate into better mental health as the more understood and supported we feel, the more our stress levels, anxiety and sadness are likely to subside. Conversely, when we are happy and our friends are happy for us, this feeds into our joy too. It should be no surprise then that one of the keys to fostering more positivity in our lives is having strong friendships and drawing on them when we need a fresh perspective, advice or support. This improves our resilience, allowing us to be more optimistic about the future.
What do you do however, if you lack strong friendships? Try meet up groups! They are an excellent way to meet like minded people who have a genuine interest in developing strong friendships. Visit www.meetup.com to see what meet up groups are available in your area.
Do you draw on your friends in times of stress, conflict or difficulty? Do you feel better as a result? After speaking to your friends do you feel more optimistic for the future? As always, I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community.