Why Friends Are Important In Life
Making friends is not the easiest thing to do when you suffer from profound shyness or social anxiety. And yet friends are good for our mental and physical health. Experts say that it is important to have close friends we can talk to about life's ups and downs. We need friends we can laugh with, cry with, and confide in.
Data cited by the guardian suggests that we Britons do not have nearly as many close friends as our counterparts in other countries. Your average Briton has two close friends while people in Saudi Arabia, for example, have as many as six. The average throughout the rest of Europe is four.
None of this is to say that you are doing something wrong if you do not have a handful of close friends. Rather, we simply want to encourage you to do your best to establish friendships. Making friends is one of the most effective ways to address social anxiety and shyness.
Benefits to Mental Health
Friendships create a lot of benefits for both physical and mental health. We will start with mental health, given that social anxiety and profound shyness are considered mental health issues. According to the mayo clinic, establishing friendships results in a long list of mental health benefits, including:
- reducing or completely preventing loneliness
- providing much needed companionship
- increasing one's sense of purpose and belonging
- improving self-confidence and self worth
- increasing feelings of happiness
- reducing the effects of stress
- making it easier to deal with trauma
How does friendship do all this? By making connections with other people who can walk through life together with you. It is amazing how much comfort and support you can glean from knowing that you are not alone. A close friend who 'gets you' is at all times a companion, confidant, and caregiver.
Benefits to Physical Health
The relationship between close friendships and physical health is rooted in how those friendships affect mental health. Simply put, people who are mentally healthy are more likely to be physically healthy as well. One of the things cited by the Mayo Clinic is the fact that healthy friends encourage one another to avoid unhealthy habits.
The Mayo Clinic also says that adults with close friendships face lower risks of depression, hypertension, obesity, and other serious health problems. They are likely to live longer than those with fewer social connections.
Friendships are Worth the Effort
So, how many friendships should you really have? No one can answer that question. The previously mentioned Guardian article referenced a study out of MIT that seems to suggest human beings are only capable of managing a maximum of five friendships at a time. Know that you do not have to max out your friendships.
The key to healthy friendships is their quality. Ideally, each of us would have a small number of close friends who remain steadfast in both good times and bad. Acquaintances will come and go as circumstances dictate. True friends remain long-term.
Putting the effort into those types of friendships is worth the effort. Yes, such friendships require a genuine commitment. But the physical and mental health benefits they return make the investment seem minor by comparison. To be physically and mentally healthy is priceless.
Maybe you struggle making friends. Perhaps your social anxiety goes well beyond mere shyness to the point of making it difficult for you to connect. We understand. We know just how hard it can be to put yourself out there. But listen to what the experts say about close friendships. These friendships make all the difference in the world.