A rush of friends and visitors this month has set me thinking about why friends are important. Lockdown deprived us of those essential social connections. What is life without friends to share it with?
Some of my friends really struggled without the boost they get from friends. Did you? For me, it’s felt a bit cut off, but I wasn’t unhappy.
It all changed this month. Seeing some of my friends in the flesh opened a whole flood of delight and joy. I realised just how important friends are and how much I’d missed by not seeing them. It felt different and it became blindingly obvious that friends are life-changing.
Why are friends so important? There are almost too many reasons but here are my 13 top choices.
1 That Elusive but Uplifting Feeling of Connection
There is nothing so good as meeting up with a friend to connect you back to the world from the place in your head that is dragging you down. Just a quick hug raises your spirits and can pull you out of a fit of the blues.
A group of friends getting together will at the very least cheer you up and the things you do together can make all the difference to your life.
Has that happened to you? You’ve been down in the dumps and your friends have made it better? Did you feel grateful to them?
2 They’re Really Saying ‘I Love You’
Just like the song says, when your friends say, ‘how do you do’, they’re really saying, ‘I love you’. And there is nothing better than to feel loved and accepted, just as you are. That’s what really good friends do; they make you feel loved. Take a look around and see the wonderful world.
3 Tapping the Tribal Instinct Makes You Feel You Belong
It’s natural for humans to belong to a tribe. These days we’re not in the tight knit community of a real tribe, but we can get the same priceless feeling of belonging by forming our own groups of friends, our own ‘tribes’.
Belonging to a group forms your identity. It gives you a place to express your interests and share them with like-minded people. Maybe you’ll find new friends with similar interests there.
When you feel that you belong to a group of friends, it gives you a great sense of security. It’s liberating to know that you can depend on them. Whatever the world flings at you, your friends have your back, because you are one of their own.
It’s important to have one or two friends in your life who can provide you with that security.
4 The Self-Confidence Your Friends Unknowingly Boost
When you know that people love you, when you feel as though you belong, you can test out your views and refine your ideas. You can talk through your problems safely and find solutions. With such support, you feel so much more self-confident.
You may not even realise that it’s happening, because it’s feels like gossiping about what is going on in your life.
But once you’ve got it, self-confidence fuels all kinds of opportunities. For example, having the confidence to ask for a raise, a new job or for a date. And any of those could be life-changing.
Can you think of when your friends have unknowingly helped you?
5 The Serendipity that Flows from Friends
Sometimes, your friends trigger the most amazing things for you. They ask you to go on holiday and you not only have a great time, but you do something that changes your life. For example, you go on a sailing holiday and end up changing your life by sailing round the world.
You might meet the love of your life through seeing your friends. (Two friends asked me if somebody I didn’t really know could come to a New Year’s party that I held. Now my best friend is married to him!) There are so many ways that friends trigger massive changes in your life. Serendipity indeed.
What’s your favourite serendipity story?
6 Growing into a Better Person
When you feel supported and self-confident, it helps you to open up and show your vulnerable side. You have the strength to believe that a friend will listen when you tell your secrets, spill your deepest thoughts.
Showing your vulnerable side enables you to develop deeper relationships. Developing deeper relationships helps you grow as a person. Friends who help you grow are the best friends.
(Is the bit about vulnerability just a bit of a scary thought?)
7 Friends Tell You Important Truths
Your friends aren’t a pushover. They tell you the truth. Sometimes it hurts. But when you know it’s done out of love, it helps you to accept things that you’re struggling with. You see your own life from a different point of view.
An objective view delivered lovingly helps you know yourself better. I’m not going to ask you if it’s happened to you – I’m sure it has. And quite often you feel like a right idiot when you’ve thought about what they’ve said.
8 Pushed Out of Your Comfort Zone
Having told you the truth, your friends may continue to push you into doing things you didn’t see were possible or you wouldn’t be brave enough to do by yourself. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you indulge in group bungee jumps every day. Perhaps it’s a gentle push towards applying for promotion or learning a new skill.
New experiences put you off and make you nervous. Until you’re used to it, even yoga feels scary. But friends support and pull you through.
You do it and suddenly life turns into fun. Exhilaration explodes as you take in your incredible achievement.
Ok, sometimes it’s a rocky ride, but with their support, you’ll come out the other side a stronger person, exulting in your abilities and achievements. Then, watch for the broad grins on the their faces.
9 Having Friends Means Having Fun
Life is more fun when you share it with friends. They drag you out to do things, go on holiday with you, make you go ballooning, water-skiing, camping or hiking. It’s ok doing things on your own, but some activities are just more fun with friends.
When you’ve heard the concert or seen the ballet, you can talk to them about the experience. It helps you to relive it, to appreciate different aspects. Tearing it apart afterwards adds to your fun.
Then there are the life celebrations, the parties, weddings, baby-showers, anniversaries or reunions (and the games on the beach). You wouldn’t be celebrating them without friends.
10 People Who Know You Through and Through
In the end, your friends know who you are and where you’ve come from. Your shared history is a bond. There is no need to explain the background to the decisions you’ve made. They were there with you. Maybe they helped you make those decisions.
You know they’ll support you and that they have your best interests at heart. In these days when it’s common for people to feel that they are invisible, it’s a powerful support to feel seen and known. Who can you think of who does that for you?
11 Helping You Live Longer
The stress of loneliness affects your physical health. Too many people feel lonely and cut off, especially as they age. People who are socially isolated and lonely die sooner than happy, connected people.
When you feel loved, that you belong and are connected, you’ll have more fun. All those feelings are good for both your mental and physical health. You’re far more likely to live longer.
12 Caring Gives Your Life Meaning
We all need to feel our lives have some meaning. Caring for others give us purpose. When you call up to check your friend is coping after a divorce or after one of their parents died, you can be a shoulder to cry on. Helping others makes your life better by giving your life meaning and purpose.
How do show your friends that you care?
13 The Family You Choose: Friends Forever
If you’re lucky, you make friends when you’re young and they stay with you forever. You live life’s joys and storms together. Maybe you drifted apart for a while because of the distractions of jobs and families. But the underlying links and relationship survive.
Think of friends as the family you choose. They’ll keep you happy to a ripe old age. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you, just like a family does.
Why It’s Important to have Friends
Friends help you in so many ways. Ways that you may not notice. They are a sounding board. Just listen to those home truths they dish out. Hear the commiseration when things go wrong. Then rush out to celebrate with them when things are going right.
They know you. Friends bring you little gifts of things you never knew you’d love, but you do. They pay you compliments when you look great. Feel the boost it gives you when they hug you. Your self-confidence blossoms because they cheer you up with their great advice. They tell you home truths, but you can show your soft, vulnerable self to them and know it won’t be trampled on.
Your friends change your life, both in small ways, e.g. a quick chat over a coffee, and in big ways, e.g. an introduction which gets you a new job or a life partner. Feeling pushed out of your comfort zone? Yes, it’s your friends getting you to try new things. And that makes you feel exhilarated and amazing.
It’s the warmth of their friendship that delivers you the bonus of extra years of happy life. Friendship literally forms your life and changes it as you age together. You create a new family with your friends.
These are just a few of the many reasons why it is important to have friends and why it is life-changing. But there is one main reason: it’s the way they make you feel. When you feel gratitude for the warmth and generosity of your friends, let them know that you feel that way. Then you are doing for them what they have done for you.
Go tell your friends how important they are to you. Have more fun with them and live longer.
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