8 Reasons Friends and Family Are Good for Health

How and why you should maintain friendships and foster relationships.

Most people know that having friends and family around is important for a healthy, happy life. But what many people don’t realize is just how beneficial friends and family can be for your health and stress levels.

Studies have shown that social interaction can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, improve mood and mental health, reduce anxiety, provide a sense of belonging and purpose, and even help you live longer.

So if you’re looking for a way to boost your health, reach out to your loved ones today. They may be just what you need to improve your well-being.

Positive Friendships Are Good for Your Health

1. Friendships Reduce Stress

Three older women laughing and hugging, friends reduce stress.Friends can help reduce stress in a number of ways. Simply talking to friends can help take the load off your shoulders and improve your mood overall. This is because talking to others releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps reduce stress. Additionally, when you have someone to rely on, it can give you a sense of security and purpose, which can also help reduce stress levels. And finally, spending time with friends can help you forget about your troubles for a while and provide a much-needed break from stress.

2. Friendships Boost Self-Confidence and Happiness

Spending time with friends makes you feel good about yourself, which can lead to improved self-confidence. Happiness is also contagious, so being around friends who enjoy life can make you happier too.

Friends can help improve your self-confidence in several ways. Friends can provide a positive mirror for you, meaning they will make you feel good about yourself when you’re around them. Additionally, friends can give you honest and constructive feedback that can help boost your confidence in the long run. Spending time with friends who make you feel good about yourself and provide positive feedback is also a great way to increase your happiness. This is because when you spend time with people who make you happy, it releases dopamine, which is a hormone that makes us feel good.

3. Friendships Improve Brain Health

Research has shown that social interaction can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Staying socially engaged keeps your mind active and helps ward off mental decline.

4. Friends and Family Provide Support During Tough Times

Close up view of two friends holding hands in support during a hard time.Friends and family can offer emotional support during tough times. They can provide a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to, or simply a distraction from whatever is stressing you out.

You may face without warning difficult life events that affect your emotional well being, such as:

  • The loss of a job
  • The death of a loved one or pet
  • A divorce or break-up
  • An illness or injury
  • Pandemics

In times like these, it’s important to have someone to lean on for support. Luckily, friends and family are usually more than happy to help out during tough times. So if you’re going through a tough time, don’t be afraid to reach out to your loved ones for support. They’ll be more than happy to help you get through it.

5. Friends Can Help You Stay Active and Healthy

Friends can also help you lead a healthier lifestyle. For example, if your friends are active, they can encourage you to be more active as well. Additionally, friends can hold you accountable for eating healthy and working out regularly. And finally, friends can provide support and motivation when you’re trying to make healthier lifestyle changes.

Studies have shown that people with social support are more likely to exercise regularly and eat healthier. Research has also found that “adolescents with active friends are more likely to be physically active and spend less time engaging in screen-based behaviors.”

6. Friends Can Improve Your Mood and Mental Health

Research has shown that social interaction can improve mood and mental health. One study found that people who were socially isolated had a higher risk of depression. Another found that social interaction can reduce anxiety.

7. Friends Can Provide a Sense of Belonging and Purpose

Friendships can give you a sense of belonging and purpose. They can provide an outlet for your talents and interests. And they can help you feel needed and appreciated.

8. Friends Can Help You Live Longer and Healthier

Studies have shown that people with strong social relationships are more likely to live longer and enjoy better health. One study found that social isolation was associated with a higher risk of death. Another found that people with strong social ties had a lower risk of developing heart disease.

Tips and Tricks for Developing Friendships

  • Group of women and men in a group art class, making friends and having fun painting.Join a club or take a class – Doing something you enjoy with others is a great way to meet people with similar interests. It’s also an easy way to start conversations and get to know people better.
  • Get involved in your community – Volunteering, attending community events, or even just talking to your neighbors can help you meet new people and make friends. If you have school-age children, volunteering in your school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is a great way to meet other parents.
  • Use social media – While it’s important to limit screen time, social media can be a great way to connect with friends and family, especially if you don’t live close. Just be sure to use it in moderation.
  • Be open and friendly – Sometimes the best way to make friends is simply by being yourself. Smile, strike up conversations and be interested in getting to know others. You never know who you might click with!
  • Know when to let go – Not every friendship is meant to last forever. If you find yourself in a toxic or one-sided relationship, it may be time to let go. Don’t be afraid to move on and find new friends who make you feel good about yourself.

Tips for Making Friends When You're Introverted or Shy

People who are introverted or shy may struggle to make new friends and often aren’t sure how to take the first step. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Start with online friends – If you’re not sure how to approach people in person, start by connecting with friends online. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to reach out to people you know and connect with new people who share your interests.
  • Join an online community – Many online communities are dedicated to specific interests, such as sports, hobbies, or politics. Joining one of these communities can help you connect with people who share your interests and make it easy to start conversations.
  • Go to events focused on your interests – Introverts and shy people often do best in small groups or one-on-one interactions. So instead of attending a large party where you might feel out of place, try going to smaller events that focus on your interests. This could be anything from a wine tasting to a cooking class. 
  • Group of people at a dog park with leashed dogs, chatting and making friends.Get a pet – If you’re not sure how to start conversations with people, getting a pet can be a great icebreaker. Dogs, in particular, are known for their ability to make friends easily.
  • Be yourself – The most important thing is to be yourself. People will appreciate your honesty and sincerity, and you’ll be more likely to find friends who accept you for who you are.
  • Be patient – Making friends takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t click with someone right away. It takes time to build trust and rapport, so give yourself (and others) a chance.

How To Create Supportive Relationships

  • Three women sitting together on a couch, one with her head in her hands and the other two being supportive friends.Establish trust – One of the most important aspects of any relationship is trust. In order to feel comfortable confiding in someone and sharing your thoughts and feelings, you need to trust that they will keep what you say to them confidential. You also need to trust that they will support you, even if they disagree with you.
  • Communicate openly and honestly – Open communication is essential for any relationship, whether with a friend, family member, or romantic partner. If you’re not honest with each other, it can lead to misunderstandings and resentment.
  • Be there for each other – One of the best ways to show your support is simply by being there for the other person. Let them know that you’re there for them, whether they need a shoulder to cry on or someone to vent frustrations.
  • Accept each other – It’s important to accept each other for who you are, even if you don’t agree with everything they do. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and no one is perfect. Your normal is not their normal, as you each experience life differently.
  • Give each other space – It’s also important to respect each other’s personal space and allow each other to pursue their own interests. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend every waking minute together, but it does mean that you should be supportive of each other’s individual goals and ambitions.

Developing positive relationships takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it. These relationships can provide us with love, support, and companionship, which are essential for a happy and fulfilled life.

Identifying Toxic Friendships

Unfortunately, not all friendships are positive. It is essential for both your mental and physical health that you identify any toxic relationships in your life and take steps to either fix them or let them go.

Here are some signs that you may be in a toxic friendship:

  • They’re always negative – If your friend is always negative, it can be draining. You may find yourself walking on eggshells around them, worried about saying or doing something that will set them off.
  • They’re competitive – A little healthy competition is one thing, but some people take it too far. If your friend is always trying to one-up you, it can make you feel like you’re not good enough.
  • They’re judgmental – We all have different opinions and perspectives, which makes us unique. But if your friend is constantly judging you, it can make you feel like you can’t do anything right.
  • They’re manipulative – Manipulative people are often very good at hiding their true intentions. They may act like your friend, but only because they want something from you.
  • They’re always drama – If your friend is always stirring up drama, it can be exhausting. You may find yourself walking on eggshells around them or feeling like you have to choose sides.

If you have a friend who fits any of these descriptions, it may be time to reassess the friendship. Toxic friendships can be damaging to your mental and emotional health, so it’s important to distance yourself from these relationships if possible.

How to Let Go of a Toxic Friendship

  • close up view of the back of a man's legs and shoes as he is walking away.Set boundaries – The first step is to set boundaries with the person. This means communicating your needs and expectations clearly. If they’re not willing to respect your boundaries, then it may be time to let go.
  • Have a conversation – If you’re unsure if the friendship is worth saving, try having a conversation with the person. If they’re not willing to listen to your concerns or make an effort to change, then it may be time to let go.
  • Give yourself time – Making the decision to end a friendship is never easy. It’s important to give yourself time to think about what’s best for you. If you’re still unsure, try taking a break from the person for a while. This will give you some time and space to think about things clearly. 
  • Be honest with yourself – It’s also important to be honest with yourself. If you’re not happy in the friendship, it may be time to let go.
  • Trust your gut – In the end, you have to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you’re unsure about whether or not to end a friendship, listen to your intuition.

Ending a friendship is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you have a friend who is toxic to your mental and emotional health, it’s important to distance yourself from them. This can be a difficult decision to make, but it’s often for the best.

The Bottom Line

Friends and family are an important part of life, and they can have a big impact on your health. Surrounding yourself with positive people can help you lead a healthier, happier life. So reach out to your loved ones today and let them know how much you appreciate them. And if you don’t have many close friends, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to make new ones.