There are times in our lives when we need to go it alone. When we are incubating a dream or completing a project, it is important to have solitude so we can focus. Many of us have times of introversion, and require frequent alone time to feel comfortable and grounded.
But humans are social creatures. Babies require affection just as much as breast milk to grow into healthy and well-adjusted adults. For most of us, emotional and spiritual growth, mental health, and true happiness are dependent on meaningful relationships.
Here are a few reasons why healthy friendships are important for our wellbeing.
1. Your Best and Worst
True friends will inspire you to be your best, and accept you even when you are at your worst. They may offer opinions or get annoyed, but ultimately they will accept you completely.
There is nothing like the ability to be completely one’s self. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson ” A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.”
Loneliness is one of the hallmarks of depression. We may not even realize how lonely we are until we act in an unhealthy way to feed that part of ourselves that is starving. Being around friends provides a kind of comfort that only comes from meaningful human interactions.
There is also a safety to being with others. Whether in our homes or out in public, being in a group allows us to express ourselves freely and feel more comfortable in our environments.
3. The Power of Touch
Sometimes the best part of being with friends is the hugs. While some friends do not make physical contact, the majority hug, pat each other on the back, hold hands, or express physical affection in other way.
Human beings need frequent physical contact to thrive. Nurturing touch reduces anxiety and lowers blood pressure. According to the Touch Research Institute, touch stimulates the pressure receptors in the skin that lower stress hormones. Friendly touch also stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that inspires feelings of trust, bonding, and comfort.
Sometimes our friends can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves. This perspective can be uncomfortable, but is extremely valuable. A good friend can let you know when your behavior has been rude or selfish, or if you are engaging in blind self-sabotage. He or she can also help you see your strengths and accomplishments when you are being hard on yourself.
Cultivating friendships with people who are different from us helps broaden our perspectives about life. Getting to know and love someone from a different race, culture, religion, or socioeconomic class can do wonders for your compassion and worldview.
5. Life Skills
Humans pick up behaviors and information from people with whom we associate. This is especially true of people that we trust or know well. If your friends participate in activities that interest you, it is likely that you will eventually explore those activities too.
We also tend to share skills with our friends. From showing you how to unplug a stuck drain to learning how to knit, we love to share our interests with the people to whom we are closest.
This can even include lifestyle choices like healthy eating. In a research study conducted by Tom Rath of the Gallup Organization, it was discovered that if a person’s friends eats healthfully, that person is five times as likely to also make healthy eating choices.
A boring shopping errand? It will be better with a buddy to help you pick the right item and keep you laughing. Terrified of heights but want to hike to a place with a great view? Take a friend to keep you going. Most activities from mediocre to frightening are more enjoyable when we have friendly company.
7. Unconditional Love
At the end of our lives, it may be love that we remember the most. The times we shared with family and friends. Our adventures, stories, losses and celebrations.
True friends teach us about the healing power of unconditional love. They are there when we are sick and there when we are well. They will hold us accountable, inspire our greatness, champion our dreams, mourn our losses, and love us no matter what. And we do the same for them.
After food and shelter, love is the primary human need. We can share it with our pets and nature, but it is our friends that will give and receive it in the most obvious ways.
Friendship is one of the most vitalizing aspects of life. Children clamor to be with each other merely for the joy of company because they intrinsically understand the value of connection. Cultivating healthy, mutually supportive friendships offers immeasurable rewards.