6 reasons to always prioritise your friends – you will thank yourself later 2 weeks ago

6 reasons to always prioritise your friends – you will thank yourself later

Today marks International Day of Friendships.

We all know how important our friends are to our happiness. Good friends not only make good times better, but they also help us get through and navigate the bad times better too.

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In fact, according to a study of 323,000 people across 99 nations, those who revealed they considered themselves to have good friends in their lives reported being happier, healthier and feeling more satisfied with their lives.

The study, which was published last year in “Friendship importance around the world: Links to cultural factors, health, and well-being” in Frontiers in Psychology, was the first of its kind – and using rating scales, the participants indicated how important friends were in their lives, how happy they were, how healthy they were, and how satisfied they were with their lives.

So our friends matter – a lot. And making sure we keep those friendships alive and thriving has so many benefits – both short – and also long – term.

Turn2Me, an Irish mental health charity, confirms the findings of the study, and has stated that good friendships positively influence our mental health.

To mark International Day of Friendships, the charity stated that having close and healthy friendships are extremely important, particularly when we’re dealing with life’s challenges.

“While friends are wonderful to have fun with and do things with, having close friends may actually mean having better mental health and even living longer.”

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Here are six ways having close friends can benefit our mental health:

1. Increases sense of belonging 

As humans, we are social creatures. We need interaction with others and to belong to a group. Feeling outside the friendship group never feels nice and can trigger anxiety. So having a healthy group of friends is so important for making us feel as though we belong and are worth love. Having a strong sense of belonging is crucial for our mental health, especially when battling depression.

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2. Increases happiness

Spending time with good friends is wonderful as you can do fun things together or just chat and laugh together. Think of all your happiest times and it is likely that a number of them happened with close friends.

3. Decreases stress 

The everyday stresses of life can be eased by good friends. When life gets that bit more difficult, friends are there for us and act as a buffer between us and stress. Talking to a trusted friend about our day can lift some of the weight off our shoulders.

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4. Coping with trauma, grief and life’s challenges.

True friends are there for us in our time of need. They offer a shoulder to cry on or just listen when we need them too. When traumatic events happen in our lives, friends are often the ones to help us cope and lead us through the hard times. Research shows that people who have few good friendships find it harder to cope with traumatic events or the loss of a job or relationship.

5. Friends can give advice on healthy behaviours

Sometimes our friends see our behaviours more clearly than we do, sometimes they can be slightly more objective. Friends will sometimes speak to you when they are concerned about certain behaviours such as drinking, being in a toxic relationship, isolating ourselves or developing unhealthy relationships with food. They can help you see what you are doing and encourage you to change your behaviour. When we have a physically fit friend who enjoys exercising they may also inspire us to engage in healthy behaviours.

6. Friends can help us live longer 

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Research shows that having strong friendships and social support may actually not only improve your quality of life but also increase how long you live. Our emotional and physical health is boosted when we have more social interactions and strong relationships.

“The moral of the story is to hold on to good friendships, they may make a world of difference!” said Anna O’Mahony Sinnott from Turn2Me.

Turn2Me was founded in 2009 stemming from the very personal experiences of Oisin and Diarmuid Scollard, who lost their brother, Cormac, to suicide in 2003. In 2013, Turn2Me gained the support of the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention to deliver counselling online.

In 2019, Turn2Me joined forces with ReachOut Ireland to create a space for young people to find information to support their mental health online. As of September 2021, Turn2Me offers adult counselling and peer support services to adults and young people aged 12 plus. It also offers group support services for teenagers, young people and adults.