Having healthy, stable friendships is key to maintaining your mental health and warding off loneliness and depression. Finding ways that you can improve your friendships can help deepen your connection, improve social intimacy, and repair any damage that past conflict has caused.

Having Friends is Good for Your Health

Most people subjectively understand that having close, reciprocal friendships is a good thing. But that isn’t just because it feels good. There’s increasing research to show that adult friendships are good for your health and wellbeing. One systematic review of recent studies found that adult friendships can help:

  • Predict wellness levels
  • Make the most of positive events
  • Support friends’ autonomy
  • Satisfy basic psychological needs
  • Make you feel unique and like you matter

    Get Help Improving Your Friendships

    Talk to a psychotherapist today about ways to improve your friendships and your mental and physical health.

The Benefits of Friendship for Mental Health

Friends can provide you with:

  • Help
  • Social Support
  • Emotional Support (including sympathy, encouragement, and trust)
  • Financial and material assistance (When is the last time you helped a friend move?)
  • Advice, guidance, and information
  • Emotional safety and a reduction of stress
  • Interpersonal intimacy, giving a place for you to express personal thoughts and feelings

Close friendships can buffer against stress and provide even more emotional satisfaction than romantic relationships. Developing and maintain strong friendships can help you:

  • Elevate your mood by spending positive time with friends
  • Help you reach goals by providing accountability partners and cheerleaders to encourage you
  • Combat isolation and depression through social events and encounters
  • Provide support in hard times, like serious illness, job loss, divorce, and other challenges
  • Boost your self-worth by supporting your friends and giving purpose to life

Ways You Can Improve Your Friendships

To get the true health benefits though, not just any acquaintance will do. The length and strength of your social relationships can significantly affect your physical and mental health. While people assume the number of friends you have is what is important, the truth is it is quality, not quantity that matters most. If you find yourself feeling isolated, or like your friends don’t trust you, you may need to take steps to deepen the relationships and improve your friendships.

It is important to remember that you can’t change others’ behaviors. Improving your friendships means being a better friend yourself. This may mean:

  • Keeping in contact rather than waiting for friends to reach out
  • Spend time together, ideally in person
  • Expressing gratitude for long-lasting friendships
  • Being a good listener, paying attention
  • Protecting your friends’ secrets and developing trust
  • Apologizing when you make mistakes
  • Showing empathy and emotional support when your friend is going through something hard
  • Invest time and energy in your friends
  • Be honest with your friends and curious about what is going on in their lives
  • Engage in positive self-talk to negate feelings or intrusive thoughts that your friends are not interested in you
  • Asking intimate questions to develop deeper friendships

Showing your commitment to your friends will encourage them to reciprocate. This will strengthen your relationships and improve your friendships going forward. Maintaining social connections takes work, on both sides. But the benefits of making and maintaining strong friendships can help you improve your physical and mental health, stave off loneliness, and improve your wellbeing well into old age.

David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps adultsteens and children with depression, isolation, and other mental health concerns. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.