Your friends are helping you live a healthier, happier life.
Healthy friendships are linked to good things like decreased stress, a positive sense of well-being, improved memory, better heart health, and longer life.
“Friendships affect our mood, our sense of security, our life experiences and our health,” says Mac Stanley Cazeau, LMHC, couples therapist in New York City.
As you get older, you may find that you have less time to maintain friendships. Work, family and other responsibilities can get in the way. But it’s a worthwhile priority, says Cazeau. “Whether it’s getting together for lunch, responding to timely texts, or planning a 5-7 Zoom, it’s important to allow time to connect with each other,” he says. .
Quality over quantity
It’s not about the number of friends you have; it’s about the quality of those friendships. Being with people who love and support you helps you live a healthy and happy life.
“As I get older, I definitely subscribe to quality over quantity, devoting my time to friends who really matter and who have the same values,” says Rachel Koller Croft, 35-year-old writer from Los Angeles. “Time is precious and I prefer to spend it with the friends who bring out the best in me, make the effort to stay in touch and support me.”
Try these tips to stay connected:
Recording. Even if you’re busy with work and family, take a short break to meet a friend. It doesn’t have to be a long speech. Just ask “how are you?” shows you are thinking about them.
Plan a gathering. Set aside time for a weekly or monthly meeting. Go to lunch or dinner. Schedule a video call. Catch up with what’s going on in your life to reconnect and keep your bond strong.
Plan a trip. “I love choosing an Airbnb and inviting friends from different parts of my life,” says Sheila McCrink, a 36-year-old public relations professional in Carlsbad, California. “With my closest group of friends, we have an annual reunion trip where we can let loose, laugh hysterically and hang out together.”
The journey gives everyone something to look forward to and keeps their friendship strong, even though their lives are busy.
How to be a good friend
To keep your relationships strong and healthy, be a good friend. Healthy friendships are mutual, with a lot of give and take. “Be as good to your friends as you want,” Cazeau says.
Try these tips to nurture your friendship:
Be a safe space. Give your friend the freedom to express themselves. “Being a safe space where your friend can share and express themselves without any judgment can be vital for their mental health,” Cazeau says. Try not to launch out with solutions to their problems. Your friend might just want to talk about something they’re concerned about.
To be present. Make the time you spend together count. Put away your cell phone. Avoid distractions. Ask questions and be an active listener. Start the conversation. Use good eye contact.
Be kind. Little acts of kindness add up. Tell your friend how much they mean to you, says Cazeau. Celebrate their victories. Remember their anniversary with a card or gift. Try to avoid criticism and negativity, which can destroy a friendship.
Open up. Sharing feelings and experiences brings friends together by creating intimacy. Show your friend that you trust them by talking freely about what you are thinking and feeling. It can make your connection deeper.
Be trustworthy. When your friend knows they can count on you, your relationship is strong. If you stray from the plans or don’t keep their secrets, it will suffer. Show up on time when you have plans. Do what you say you will do. And keep confidential information to yourself.
Limit your feelings of competition. “Try not to compare yourself to your friends,” advises McCrink. “It can be very difficult, but it’s toxic to friendships.”
In her twenties, when many of McCrink’s friends got married, she began to feel uncomfortable being single. “It consumed me to the point that I rushed into a marriage that didn’t suit me,” she says.
Instead of making comparisons, be your friend’s cheerleader. “Embrace where you are on your own journey and raise your friends to keep relationships strong,” McCrink says.
Casual or long-distance friendships
You can have all types of friendships in your life:
Work friends. Try to build friendships at work by welcoming people in a friendly manner, supporting your coworkers, and going out for lunch or happy hour together.
Simple knowledge. Even if you don’t know them well, ask an acquaintance how they are. Praise them for their accomplishments. Send an SMS or a quick message. “Social media is great for this,” Croft said. Leave a comment or send a direct message to set a starting point for a friendship.
Old friends you don’t see often. “Try to reach out more often,” Cazeau says. Schedule a call or visit to catch up. Remember the good old days. Talk about what matters to them and to you.
When things go wrong
Sometimes friendships hit the road. If things go wrong and you played a part in it, take responsibility for what you did and apologize, Cazeau says. Open conversation can get you back on track through a strong friendship.
“If you don’t feel like rekindling the friendship, take the time and action necessary to mourn your friendship, then move on,” Cazeau says.
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