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How important are friends?
Posted: May 4, 2011
Last Updated: May 4, 2011

Having friends may be as beneficial to your health as not smoking, according to a recent study at Bingham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The findings suggest that friends, or in technical terms Ė satisfying social relationships, can increase your likelihood of survival by 50 percent over people with poor or insufficient relationships.


Why are friends so beneficial to your life? One theory behind the studyís results is social relationships, especially positive relationships, may act as a buffer against the negative effects stress has on health. Social relationships, or friends, help promote healthy behaviors and may directly encourage each otherís good habits.


So the question is: how do you strengthen your friendships, a.k.a. social relationships?


Meet people: The more people in your life, the more likely you are to have truly supportive relationship with at least one of them. Itís also beneficial to be able to add new people to your social circle. Think about people you know or see regularlyÖis there someone you might like to get to know better?


Make time: It is important to make time to nurture relationships, and to go out and make friends. Set aside some time each week for your friends. In our busy world, time can slip away from us. It might be weeks since you last saw your friend or had a chance to visit. Get a calendar to write down appointments, make a date to see your friend, remember birthdays, and other important events. Even a phone call to touch base and see how someone is doing is a great way to catch up and make a time to get together in person.


Listen: After a stressful day, sometimes all you want to do is talk to your friend about all the difficulties you faced. But remember being a friend is a two-way street. You need to listen as much as they do. Being truly listened to and understood can have profound effects on people. When dealing with friends itís important to give as well as receive this type of social support (yes, that elusive positive social support we seek to extend our livesóand those of our friends). Remember to ask about how they are feeling and share how you feel, too. Try asking a question if you donít understand what they are saying.


Intuition: Learn to listen to your intuition about people. Friendships canít be forced. Some people mix easily together, others might mix with you like oil and vinegarónot at all. Pay attention to what your intuition says. Friends, real friends, offer positive support and receive the same from you. That said, all friendships have an ebb and flow. Also, some people might not be the right match for you. If someone makes you feel bad about yourself, doesnít share your interests or values, or says negative things to you, it is perfectly acceptable to put that relationship aside or let it fade or not develop in the first place. It doesnít mean there is anything wrong with either of you. Only you know what relationships are worth keeping or not. But it is important to have several people you can count on for support in your life.


If you need help expanding your social relationships or have one that is difficult for you to deal with call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.