Why Healthy Friendships Are Important For Mental Health


Suruchi Patwary, August 11, 2021

Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif (Source: Instagram | atkatrinakaif)

Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif (Source: Instagram | atkatrinakaif)

‘A good friendship is a wonderful antidepressant,’ says the psychologist Janice Kiecolt Glaser. The first Sunday in August is celebrated as a day of friendship in which we recognize and appreciate the bond we share with people who make us feel independent, help us in times of difficulty and provide us with emotional support. Holt Lundstad He also stated in his research that “true friendship can give us a sense of purpose and motivate us to take care of ourselves. This reminded Heena shethia, psychologist in MPower from a case she shared below,

Ankit (name changed) is 32 years old and suffering from depression due to the death of his wife and the loss of his job during Covid-19. He distanced himself from everyone, did not attend prayer meetings or answer calls. One of his friends got worried and felt something was wrong, so he visited him one day. Ankit didn’t say much at first, but as they delved into a deeper conversation, she opened up and yelled. The friend gave him a warm hug, helped him open up and express himself, and suggested that he seek professional help.

Food is tasteless without spices and therefore our life is incomplete without a healthy friendship. With the help of a friend, Ankit was able to cope with the loss of his wife and his job by seeking professional help. This was a small example of how healthy friendship and mental health correlate. It also shows that true friendship cannot replace the virtual world.

Sakura Image Inc's Best Friends |  www.shutterstock.com

Sakura Image Inc’s Best Friends | www.shutterstock.com

Kelli Harding, MD mentioned in one of his interviews that, as a doctor, he would prescribe a healthy friendship to everyone. Talking to a friend on its own works like meditation and helps us heal faster. Healthy friendship promotes healthy life choices, resulting in healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and a long happy life. A healthy friendship does not need a group of friends. It may be one or five people with whom we feel closely connected because the quality of the relationship matters, not the quantity.

Social media and social media play an important role in how we perceive others. We resonate a lot with how they represent their content. It has its pros and cons, but it depends on the choice we make. Later on, our physical hugs have been replaced by virtual emojis. The excessive use of social networks had led to the reduction of friendships for years of our lives, but movies and shows like 3 idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Kai Po Che, Dil chahta hai, Sholay, Rang De Basanti, etc. They have shown us different shades of true and healthy friendship.

Heena also talks about how healthy friendship has a myriad of benefits on our mental well-being and some of them are:

Woman in a deep sleep By oOhyperblaster |  www.shutterstock.com

Woman in a deep sleep By oOhyperblaster | www.shutterstock.com

1. Improved quality of sleep

Having a friend to talk to towards the end of the day helps us sleep soundly, have healthy sleep patterns, and feel refreshed in the morning.

2. Sense of belonging

American psychologist AH Maslow has stated in his theory of the hierarchy of needs that we strive to feel accepted and connected by others. Our healthy friends never leave us out and support us throughout life.

3. Coping with mental trauma

Healthy friendship elevates us by being empathetic during traumatic situations such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, divorce, failure on exams, etc. They make it easier for us to grieve in such situations.

4. Increase our resistance

When we are surrounded by friends who are positive and unconditionally supportive, our resistance to going through mental discomfort and stress increases. We handle these situations in a healthier way.

Release mental stress By sun ok |  www.shutterstock.com

Release mental stress By sun ok | www.shutterstock.com

5. Release our mental load

Throughout the day, we have different roles and responsibilities that create a lot of mental load. Having a good friend helps us free ourselves from this burden by listening to us without judgment and sharing a cup of coffee or taking a long walk and spending quality time with us.

6. Improve our self-confidence

Healthy friends do not give us false hope, but rather make us aware of our strengths and weaknesses. They help us to have realistic goals and a better outlook on life, which improves our confidence and performs better.

7. Higher level of self-awareness

People with anxiety and body image problems perceive themselves based on the opinions and views of others about them, causing the person to feel distressed. A healthy friendship helps us evaluate ourselves and manage our emotions, actions, and thoughts, resulting in a better awareness of ourselves from within.

8. Biologically healthy

Healthy friendships lower blood pressure, improve hormonal function, strengthen the immune system, improve digestion, improve proper blood circulation, and reduce the chances of heart failure or any serious health conditions.

9. It motivates us to seek therapy

A healthy friend encourages us to seek professional help when he sees that our mental health deteriorates and affects our general well-being.

Seek therapy if necessary.  By wavebreakmedia |  www.shutterstock.com

Seek therapy if necessary. By wavebreakmedia | www.shutterstock.com

In today’s Covid times, it is even more important for us to have healthy friendships. Covid has created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among us. We are stuck in an undesirable situation with no idea when things will be normal. Due to the confinements, many are away from their families. In such a crisis, our friends help us by being there and providing us with social-emotional support.

They make us feel less alone and encourage us in such traumatic and life-changing situations. In the midst of this pandemic, our physical gatherings have been limited due to social distancing, but advanced technology has made it much easier to survive in these difficult times. Through technology, coffee meetings have become Google meetings and different social media platforms have played a vital role in keeping us connected with our close friends.

A healthy friend can be our life partner, co-workers, childhood friends, college friends, and someone with whom we share our hearts and who keeps our mental health in good shape.

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