A recent survey by the counselling organisation Relate reported that 1 in 10 of the people questioned did not have a close friend and that 1 in 5 of us feel unloved. 81% of people who are married or cohabiting feel good about themselves compared with 69% who are single.
Friendships are important, but it is often a part of our life that we just don’t give enough attention to. It sits in our ‘would be nice to do if I had enough time’ pile rather than our ‘essential’ pile.
There are lots of reasons why we should be investing the effort in making and maintaining good, supportive friendships. Here are just four:
1. Friends Make you Happy
People who have close friends are happier. People who consistently rate themselves as ‘very happy’ have more rich and satisfying friendships; they spend least time alone and more time socialising. Great relationships might not guarantee you great happiness, but the evidence is that you cannot achieve great happiness without them.
2. Friends Lighten the Load
Having your friends with you either in your thoughts or in person helps us to negotiate life’s challenges. Researchers found that people accompanied by a friend, or who thought of a supportive friend saw a hill as less steep than people on their own or thinking of someone who wasn’t a friend. Having a friend by your side or in your thoughts quite literally “lightens the load’ and helps you to manage life’s difficulties.
3. Friends Increase Our Resilience
Having the support of friends increases our physical and our mental resilience. Social connection protects us from stress related illness and symptoms and boosts our immune system providing resistance to infectious diseases. It also protects us from the vagaries of life. The greater the network of people we can call on when life is dealing us a dud-hand, the greater our ability to cope.
4. Sharing Good News With Friends Boosts Your Feel-Good Factor
Sharing good news with others helps us to savour the experience. Research has shown that when good things happen, sharing the news with friends helps us to experience even more positive affect than could be attributed to the event alone. Telling someone else about a positive event increases your happiness and life satisfaction. When it comes to good news, it is definitely positive to share.
For further information:
1. Diener, E., Sligman, M.E.P., (2002) Very Happy People Psychological Science. 13:1
2. Schnall, S., Harber, K.D., Stefanucci, J.K., Proffitt, D.R. (2008) Social Support and the Perception of a Geographical Slant. Journal of Exp Psych 44
3. Cohen, S., Doyle, WJ., Turner, R., Alper, C.M., Skoner, D.P., (2003) Socialbility and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Psychological Science 14:5
4. Langton, C.A., (1994( Capitalizing on coping and daily-life events: Expressive responses to positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 67.