Everyone’s lives are busy. Work, kids, family commitments, and many other things keep us from spending time with friends. The pandemic and social distancing also put a dent in people’s ability to socialize and maintain friendships. But spending time with friends is important for health and happiness. Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General declared an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” in the country. While having family relationships, including a romantic partner, is beneficial, having friends outside of the family unit is also healthy.
There are many positive benefits to friendships. Friends help us to cope with stressful events in our lives, such as divorce, illness, and death — and help us celebrate achievements in our lives. Healthy friendships can help you develop positive habits, such as exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and watching alcohol intake (but watch out for “friends” who encourage habits that sabotage you). Having friends helps reduce stress, and the risk of mental health concerns, such as depression, substance misuse, and anxiety. In addition, social connections have been shown to reduce the risk of physical illnesses, such as cardiac disease and dementia.
As an adult, it can be more challenging to make friends. If you are looking for ways to meet people, identify an activity that you enjoy or want to try, such as a book club or hiking group. Online resources, such as Meetup, provide information on group activities occurring in the local area. Volunteering for a cause that you care about can also help develop a social network. Reaching out to old friends with whom you have lost touch may be a way to revive a friendship. With both old and new friends, make it a point to stay connected, by setting up regular times to meet, call or connect via technology.
There is no “correct” number of friends. It’s not the number of friends that is important, but the quality of the relationships. Everyone’s needs for companionship vary, but it’s important to have people in your life who will support you in good times and in bad.
For more information, including a podcast on friendship, check out:
6 Benefits of Friends: Why It’s Important to Stay Close (verywellmind.com)