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I didn’t have many real friends when I was four. Most of the kids I met in play group were mean towards me and quite spiteful. I remember praying and pleading with my parents to give me a little brother or sister, a play mate who loved and accepted me. I now realise that my idea of siblings was quite romantic when I was young, after all, not all brothers and sisters get along.

 

I’m now happy to be an only child and in all honesty, I think I would have been quite jealous if my parents attention had been divided when I was so young. Perhaps because I am an only child, I have come to view my friends as my extended family (I call one of my best friends my surrogate sister).

 

I love my friends, they are kind, understanding, thoughtful, considerate and loyal, and I try to embody these qualities to my friends in turn. I have always strived to be the type of friend I would like to have; someone who would be there no matter what.

 

It’s true that I have made mistakes. There have been times when I have neglected to see my friends regularly. There have been times when I have held onto anger and waited too long to apologize. There have been times when I have spoken from a place of hurt and been uncaring with my words. I have had my moments.

 

What has sustained my friendships through these times is an unwavering love for my friends that meant I was committed to repairing the relationship. I tried to see things from their perspective. I apologized and made amends. We were able to get through the tough times because our friendships were so strong in the first place.

 

As I suspected when I first sat down to write this article, studies have shown that having strong friendships actually improves our psychological and physiological health.

 

Friendships optimize our physical health by reducing the secretion of stress hormones and the likelihood of colds and flu. Having good friendships lengthens life span and even increases the survival rate amongst those with diseases.

 

Friendships are incredibly important to our mental health too, serving as a resource of support and providing us with encouragement when we either lack faith or motivation. In addition, our friends are a valuable source of play which leads to greater lightheartedness, empathy, flexibility, adaptiveness, optimism, hope for the future and a sense of belonging.

 

I adopted ten key behaviors which helped me cultivate strong friendships. Next week I will share these same key behaviors with you so you too may enjoy strong, long-lasting friendships that boost your health and well-being.

 

How have your friendships helped you? Do you feel that you have strong friendships? Would you like to improve the quality of your friendships? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Exercises:

 

  1. Make a list of your best friends and what qualities your best friends offer you (I.e. loyalty, good listener) and try to embody these qualities to your friends in turn.
  2. Write down the friendships in your life that you would like to improve and keep this list in mind throughout the series, taking note of the key behaviors (featured later in the series) that could improve these friendships.