The importance of friendships

friendships

I moved around a lot in my childhood. I lived in three counties between the ages of 6-18 and attended 5 schools in that time. This made it difficult for me to make friendships that lasted, particularly as a child because long-distance friendships just weren’t feasible (I lived in a time when we still had dial-up and kids didn’t have mobile phones!) and also because I’m a self-professed introvert. At the age of 18 I flew the nest to go to university and whilst a lot of my peers were struggling with being homesick or being away from childhood friends, it was like water off a duck’s back for me. 

In some ways, it has helped me adapt quickly to change, but it does mean that I don’t have those childhood friendships or connections that I was so envious of other people having. It also meant that I had to work a lot harder to create connections in order to make friendships and often found myself too intense for some people to handle! 

Since then, in my adult years, I’ve made friends and maintained them, even across counties and countries. I learned that it takes a lot of effort (both ways) and that just like relationships, they can fizzle out if both people aren’t committed to making it work. Over the years I’ve worked hard at building a friendship group, developing meaningful and lasting friendships and learned when to let go of others that just weren’t working or that had become one-sided.

For those of us who aren’t that close to our families, our friends are our lifelines. In fact, they are the family we’ve chosen for ourselves. During life’s ups and downs, it’s so important to have your tribe around you, championing you and cheering you on. 

Personally, I’m lucky enough to have a group of ladies that do just that. We celebrate each other’s wins and we commiserate with each other’s failures or losses. We let each other vent, we provide advice if it’s asked for and all in all, we just love each other to bits. Above all, my friends teach me about myself and challenge me to be better. 

So why is friendship important?

Strong friendships have been proven to decrease the feeling of isolation and loneliness, both of which have been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Research has found that having positive and wholesome friendships relieves stress, reduces anxiety and has positive effects on mental health overall.

“When women feel close to someone, levels of progesterone, a hormone that helps reduce stress and anxiety, go up, a study from the University of Michigan found.”

Good Housekeeping

As well as this, friendships that are good for you raise your confidence levels and help with your self-esteem. This in turn eliminates self-doubt and can have positive effects on both career progression and lifestyle choices.

“Women who frequently check in with two or three women in their friendship circle or have female-dominated inner circles are more likely to land higher-ranking leadership positions.”

The University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University

There are numerous positives that our friendships bring, but it’s important to highlight that not all friendships are good. Again, just like bad romantic relationships or family bonds, the same issues can arise in friendships. It’s important to cut off any friendships that become toxic, one-sided or where you find yourself in a position where you’re being taken advantage of. 

All in all, healthy and strong bonds with other people are central to our lives. We make memories with our friends, experience milestones and firsts with our friends, supporting each other through the good times and the bad. Below are some useful links to articles about making friends as an adult, tips for introverts when making friends and how to identify when a friendship has become toxic.

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/signs-time-to-end-friendship-toxic-negativity/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/apr/30/how-to-make-new-friends-adult-lonely-leap-of-faith

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