We all know, on some level, how friendships feel. Anais Nin said it best when she said,“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Good friends are a blessing. But still, friendships can be difficult to maintain and confusing to navigate. When friendships are healthy and positive, they can have immense impacts on our general well being. A good friendship grants us the ability to feel important, seen, and valued. It’s important to note that friendships are unique because they are formed on the mutual desire to grow closer. In this article we will simply be focusing on the importance of friendship, how to nurture existing friendships, and how to potentially create new friendships.

What are friendships?

Let’s begin with a quick definition, so we are all on the same page of what a friendship is. In the future I will be writing a post on red flags in a friendship, or what a friendship should not look like. But for now, let’s focus on the baseline definition of a friendship. My favorite podcast recently did an episode on friendship, and the way it was defined really stuck with me. Jeremy Godwin defines friendship as “someone who you have a bond of mutual affection with” Because, as stated earlier, friendship is formed on the mutual desire to become closer than just strangers. That being said, friendships can be healthy or unhealthy, just like any other type of relationship. Good friends will push you to be the best version of yourself, they will celebrate you and your accomplishments, and they will allow you to feel heard and speak on your difficulties in life. On the flip side, friendships can also be unhealthy in many different ways. If it isn’t two sided, or if one person holds the power in the relationship, things tend to get messy. (More on red flags in friendships in the future!) 

Why are friendships important?

Being able to assess our friendships with honesty is important because who we surround ourselves with has a direct impact on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. So, it’s meaningful to take a good look at the friendships that we have- and see if they really are beneficial for us. But, why are friendships even so important? They matter because friendships (good or bad) have a direct effect on our overall well being. According to the Mayo Clinic, they play a role in increasing happiness and reducing stress. They also boost a sense of belonging, while additionally aiding in confidence and self worth. To quote Mayo Clinic a second time, “Adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index” There are also plenty of studies proving that friendships can help with overall health, and even prolong survival length. 

How to make new friends

Friendships change dramatically as we age. When we’re younger, we have very little criteria for a new friend. A 5 year old might make a new best friend over a mutual interest in trains or cars. They might move from friend status to best friend status over a shared cookie. Not only do we have little criteria for a new friend when we’re younger, but children are constantly surrounded by environments that elicit and support new friendships. Environments such as school, the playground, camps, or clubs, allow for the chance to meet new people and therefore create new friendships. But as we age we are exposed less and less to these friendship-friendly environments. That doesn’t mean making new friends as an adult is a fruitless endeavor though. It is never too late to make a new friend. The first step in making new friendships is to earnestly put yourself out there. Visit places that you may find people with similar interests as you, such as classes, clubs, community events, or volunteering. Remember, you must be willing to invest time and energy that will nurture potential friends. Be available to accept invitations and don’t shy away from extending invitations too. And most importantly, be patient! It may not occur overnight, and it will take effort, but there are so many people out there looking for friends. 

How to nurture existing friendships

The last subject we’re going to touch on is nurturing existing friendships. This is a vital skill to have, because usually when we make a friend we aim to keep them close for as long as we’re able. Like anything else, if we want friendships to succeed they take intentional effort. Enduring friendships are built on a foundation of trust and honesty. Open communication, honest perspectives, and regularly making time for friendships are the groundwork for a prosperous friendship. If you haven’t already, adopt the habit of integrating kindness in all aspects of life, including friendships. Treating your friends with kindness allows for mutual respect to foster. And finally, like all relationships in life, friendships thrive on mutuality. You’ve likely heard the phrase “friendship is a two way street”, and there is no better way to put it. Both sides need to put in equal effort. Both sides need to be able to speak and feel heard, and both also need to be able to listen. A true friend will make time for your friendship.

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