Chances are the people who know you best have been in your life the longest. Perhaps you met on the playground, in class, or next door to your childhood home. Regardless, you’ve spent your whole life getting to know them, and you hope to maintain that bond for as long as possible.
You may be thinking, “Of course, we’ll remain friends.” Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of even our most important relationships. A person’s social circle slowly starts to shrink when they reach the age of 25, according to a 2016 study. Further, people today have fewer relationships in which they can discuss important matters. In 1985, respondents in one study had an average of 2.94 people in their lives they could talk to, and that number shrunk to 2.08 by 2004.
Cultivating lifelong friendships can change your life and here’s how:
1. Friends Help You Live Longer
Lifelong friendships seem to give us a reason to stick around. People with strong social ties normally live longer than do isolated individuals. Feeling or being alone for an extended period can cause stress, and stress’s long-term effects can severely damage the body. It can lead to mental health problems, as well as cardiovascular and digestion issues.
Adults who have friends have a built-in way to deal with and process stress. As such, they feel less stress over time, which protects their bodies from the sensation’s damaging effects and extends their lives that much longer.
2. Friends Help You Stay Healthy
To live a high-quality life, humans need four types of engagement—social, physical, spiritual and intellectual. Having a friend who makes a point to stay healthy through exercise and nutritious eating can rub off on you. The inverse can be true too, so beware. If a friend gains weight or becomes obese, their friends have a 57% chance of experiencing the same.
The idea of staying healthy through friendship is about more than physical health and weight loss. Having friends can give you a sense of belonging. Such sentiment has its links to everything from inflammation to waist circumference to blood pressure. As you can probably predict, those who had strong social ties ranked lower in all these areas than their isolated counterparts.
On top of that, good friends won’t hold back when they know you’re doing something to hurt yourself. Friends may intervene if they think you’re making unhealthy choices, such as abusing alcohol or neglecting to exercise. While the conversation might be tough, a good friend is willing and ready to see it through, helping you in the best ways.
3. Friends Improve Your Self-Confidence
It’s always nice to have a cheerleader in your corner. Having a good friend can lift your self-confidence. If you’re feeling nervous, down or rejected, your best buddy will help you see the other side. Your friend’s faith and confidence in you can also boost your sense of self-worth. A best friend helps you see all you have to offer.
Again, this boost in mental health and strength can help reduce your stress. According to a 2011 study, kids who felt excluded had more of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva than those who had close friends. These relationships continue to be a soft place to land for adults too.
4. Friends See You through Tough Times
You likely met your oldest friends when you were a child. Life seemed simple then. Just as friends can help you through rejection and anxiety, they are sure to step up to the plate when you are dealing with the pain of loss or trauma throughout your lifetime.
This loyalty is why support groups for medical patients with cancer, for instance, have so many ardent attendees. In some cases, cancer patients end up living longer and happier lives because they attend support group meetings.
Your friends will remain by your side during other tough times, too. Whether you’ve lost a loved one, gotten divorced or received a pink slip from your employer, your friends will help you get through it.
Make Friends For Life
Having friends around makes life better in so many ways. So, keep your friendships strong and reap the benefits for years to come. You will be happier for it, which makes life even sweeter as it goes on.
What can you do today to help cultivate a friendship?
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, writer, and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She enjoys drinking tea, dark chocolate, and rainy day snuggles with her daughter. She enjoys sunny days, too, but finds they are less conducive for snuggles. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.