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What You Need to Know About Friends and Friendship


What do friends have to do with eating? Well, friends help you turn to people, not food, when you want to celebrate or have fun, pour your heart out, or share your deepest confidences. They provide unconditional love and support. Friendships are essential to first-rate mental health—assuming the friends you pick are mentally healthy themselves and add to, rather than detract from, living your best life. 

According to How Many Friends Do Americans Have?, social connections not only benefit your mental health, but can “change your cardiovascular system, your immune system, how you sleep, your cognitive health. . . It's about this mix. It's about connecting with people who are close to you, who are maybe less close to you, who connect you with other people, who provide different kinds of support. Essentially, the idea is that the more diverse your social portfolio, the happier you are and the higher your well-being.”

22 signs that your friend is really your best friend outlines qualities to seek in friends. Although the article is about besties, many attributes apply to good friends as well. If you have difficulty making or keep high quality friends, this would be a useful article to read. Most research says that you don’t need scads of friends, but to live well, you want to have a few individuals and even a solid group (which comes to feel like family).

Right now, some of you may be questioning your friendships. If you’re happy with your social connections, you may feel fortunate or proud. If not, you may be judging yourself harshly for not having better or more friends and feel left out or defective. If the latter is true, before you continue reading, switch your judgment to curiosity and set your sights on figuring out what hasn’t been working for you friendship-wise in order to correct it.

First off, making friends can definitely be difficult, so there’s that. Second—and this is sadly common in my clinical practice—you may be choosing “friends” who aren’t emotionally healthy enough to maintain a functional relationship. If you’re regularly struggling with someone and wondering if they value you, this is not friendship. If the relationship is all (you) give and (they) take, this is not friendship. If you don’t feel emotionally safe with someone because they’re unpredictable, this is not friendship.

Third, if you grew up in a dysfunctional family you may not be emotionally ready for close relationships because you have issues to resolve regarding trust and safety, self-esteem, lovability, and effective self-regulation. In this case, it’s time for professional help to get you ready for friendships and choosing others who are as ready as you are.