Friendships give you a sense of belonging, reduce stress, boost your confidence, help you get through difficult times, and make it easier to avoid unhealthy lifestyles. Adults with strong social networks are less likely to have mental health problems, high blood pressure, and higher body mass indexes, according to research. Older adults with a large number of friends are also more likely to live a longer life.
How, on the other hand, do you cultivate those strong friendships? Continue reading to find out how to be a good friend.
Why are friends so important?
Our society places a premium on romantic relationships. We believe that simply meeting the right person will make us happy and fulfilled. However, studies show that friends are even more important to our psychological well-being. Friendship brings more joy into our lives than almost anything else.
Friendships have a significant influence on your mental health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, bring comfort and joy, and keep you from feeling lonely or isolated. Having close friends can also have a significant impact on your physical health. A lack of social connection may be as dangerous as smoking, excessive drinking, or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Friendship is even linked to longevity. According to one Swedish study, having a large network of friends, in addition to physical activity, can add years to your life.
Close friendships, on the other hand, do not just happen. Many of us struggle to meet new people and form meaningful connections. Regardless of your age or circumstances, it’s never too late to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and significantly improve your social life, emotional health, and overall well-being.
The benefits of friendships
While it takes time and effort to develop and maintain friendships, healthy friendships can:
Enhance your mood. Spending time with happy and positive people can improve your mood and outlook.
Assist you in achieving your objectives. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or improve your life in other ways, encouragement from a friend can really boost your willpower and increase your chances of success.
Reduce your levels of stress and depression. Having an active social life can help boost your immune system and reduce isolation, which is a major contributor to depression.
Help you get through the difficult times. Friends can help you cope with serious illness, the loss of a job or a loved one, the breakup of a relationship, or any other life challenges, even if it’s just having someone to share your problems with.
As you get older, you can count on us to be there for you. Retirement, illness, and the death of loved ones can all leave you feeling isolated as you get older. Knowing you have people you can turn to for company and support can give you meaning as you age and act as a buffer against depression, disability, hardship, and loss.
Increase your self-esteem. Friendship is a two-way street, and the “give” side of the give-and-take helps you feel good about yourself. Being there for your friends makes you feel needed and gives your life meaning.
What makes a good friend?
Honesty is undoubtedly one of the most important characteristics of a good friend. An honest friend is someone who can and will tell you the truth rather than lying to keep you happy or placated. Cristerna believes that a good friend will tell you the truth even if it is painful because they love you.
A nonjudgmental friend makes you feel confident in and loved for who you are, as opposed to someone who instills insecurity or self-doubt in you. Nonjudgmental friends listen to you and try to see things from your perspective.
True friends accept you despite the fact that your lives are diverging. True friends recognize that your decisions are yours and accept them because they understand that what is right for them isn’t always right for you.
Trust allows us to feel safe with our friends—safe to be vulnerable and share our plans, true selves, and lives. A reliable friend keeps your secrets, follows through on their promises, and is dependable.
Many longtime friends claim that when they haven’t spoken in a long time and then reconnect, it’s as if no time has passed. In other words, friends should not demand your undivided attention all of the time and should understand when life gets hectic.
Tips for how to be a good friend
1. Make time for each other a priority
We value free time because we don’t have much of it. Simultaneously, friendships develop through shared experiences and quality time spent together. A good friend is someone who makes time for you and prioritizes spending time with you. A good friend will also look for ways to make the most of the time you have together by seeking out fun and unique experiences that will help to strengthen and maintain your bond.
2. Be open and vulnerable with one another
Cristerna defines a good friend as “someone genuine,” “someone with whom you can be yourself and they can be themselves around you.” A good friend allows you to be vulnerable with them and vice versa, which means you can share your emotions and circumstances with each other and trust each other to listen, be supportive, and have your best interests at heart.
“The ability to have fun and share special memories is the result of having a trusting and safe relationship,” Cristerna adds. “For example, all of my friends and I have agreed that we will support one another in any way (yes, even ridiculous ways! ), unless the level of ridiculousness becomes too much or creates an uncomfortable situation.”
3. Pay attention to the details
“A good friend can read between the lines of what’s being said because they listen and know your heart,” Thompson says. “For example, if I ask a close friend, ‘How are you doing?’ and she responds, ‘OK,’ I know she is not OK. A good friend pays attention to the details because you care about getting to know your friend’s heart.”
4. Be willing to put each other on the spot
A good friend encourages you to grow, will tell you when you’re on the wrong track, and will “challenge you when you need to be challenged,” according to Thompson. And it’s all done “with love and respect.” You can grow together and support each other along the way this way.
“In a personal story, I was upset with someone, and one of my good friends interrupted my rant and said, ‘Jinnie, you know you’re wrong.’ I’m always with you, but I won’t be able to ride with you on this one. ‘Take a moment to reflect on your role in this.’ That moment stays with me to this day because she loved me enough to tell me to stop, and it came from a loving place. Because of this, I was able to receive it “Cristerna elaborates. “Friends do things like that.”
5. However, remain open-minded
Thompson believes that in order to be a good friend, one must be open-minded. Being open-minded allows your friend to be their authentic selves, which is especially important when making decisions. You demonstrate understanding and support by remaining open-minded and not inserting your own biases into your friend’s decision-making.
“Good friends encourage us, allow us to be ourselves and make mistakes, and they respect our boundaries,” Cristerna adds.
6. Keep an eye out for them
“A good friend is a courageous friend who will stand up and do the right thing even if no one is looking and even if it is not in their best interests. This may not be the typical definition of courage, but believe me when I say it takes a lot of courage to do this “According to Cristerna.
For example, you may find yourself in situations where other people are not treating your friend well or where you know your friend is in a difficult situation. A good friend will go to great lengths to protect their friends, whether it’s stopping gossip about them, making sure they get home safely after a night out, or something else.
The bottom line
A true friendship is defined by knowing someone has your back, no matter what. A good friend will watch out for you and ensure you are safe, feel supported, and are loved. A good friend will never purposely lead you into making decisions or taking actions that aren’t good for you. A true friend will always have your best interests at heart.