Why Friends Are So Important

You can’t fully comprehend just how important friends are until you find yourself without them.

Friends serve profound needs that just can’t be met by family, colleagues, or acquaintances. Although it’s difficult to describe exactly what a friend is as it may mean different things to different people, everyone likes to have them. With friends, life is simply nicer, richer, and more rewarding.

Quite frankly, you are missing out on so much in life without friends. Apart from having someone to hang out with or a shoulder to cry on, the emotional bonds that are created between friends are truly unique and can last a lifetime. In fact, no other relationship can bring you the same level of unwavering loyalty, self-enrichment, and honesty.

You may have sisters, brothers, a spouse, partner, or work colleagues, but none of these are necessarily going to be good friends. They can be, but that’s not always the case.

Family ties are something different from friendship and although most people love their siblings or relatives, they don’t always classify them as good friends. As the well-known saying goes, ‘you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family’.

Our relatives are connected to us through biology and although we can’t change that, we can decide if we actually like them or not, often feeling closer to a friend than to a sister or brother.

Partners or spouses can also be great friends and many people profess that their husband/wife/partner is also their best friend. That’s great until the relationship breaks down, which often means losing both a friend and partner in one fell swoop. 

Relying on a partner to meet all of your emotional needs could leave you without a social circle outside of the relationship, which can be a bad thing in the long run.

The people you work with can also be your friends, although your relationship may be strictly work-oriented and never extend into a more social setting. If you or they leave the job, or the dynamic of your working relationship shifts, that can be the litmus test for how strong your friendship really is.

We can have friends from all realms of our lives, but what makes those relationships special is the deep platonic connection that we have with each other rather than any biological, romantic, or work-related ties.

Friendship is really a gift that you give to yourself because it is the one thing that brings absolute joy. It’s the icing on the cake, the laughter through the sadness, and the light in the darkness.

Having someone to depend on who will be there for you no matter what, and who will always be truthful, even if that hurts, is invaluable.

Friends also serve a much more practical purpose because having them can improve your mental health and physical well-being, leading to a longer life. That may sound a bit far-fetched but it happens to be true.

If you have a strong social support system, you are much less likely to suffer from health issues like depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. Ask any octogenarian what the key to a long life is and apart from the usual ‘staying healthy and active’, they will also mention, ‘having good friends’.

The benefits of having besties are multiple and below you will find some of the reasons why building strong friendships can seriously improve your life.

State of Mind. Having friends can literally keep you balanced. They will help to put your problems into perspective and stop you from obsessing about how bad your day was. By taking your mind off any negative thoughts, you can refocus on other things and have a laugh rather than feel sorry for yourself. 

You may wake up in the worst of moods but after spending time with friends, the world looks wonderful again. Mental Health. Most people suffering from depression describe feeling lonely or isolated. Although these feelings don’t necessarily cause depression, they can play a part if prolonged.

While some of us can manage being alone for a certain duration of time without a significant effect on our mental health there are those who desperately crave companionship. Having friends would certainly make them feel better about life as a whole and reduce the risk of depression.

Physical Well-being. Loneliness increases the amount of cortisol in the brain, which is the stress hormone. It’s also responsible for a healthy immune system which, if left vulnerable, can lead to diabetes, sleep disorders, heart problems, and even cancer. 

Even if you don’t meet up with friends often, just knowing that they are there if you need them helps to control the amount of stress that you may experience.

Sharing is Caring. A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say, and this definitely applies to friendships. Negative thoughts, worries, and concerns can eat away at you but if you have someone to share them with, it is literally like taking a weight off your shoulders.

It’s not feasible to deal with problems on your own all of the time, and having an understanding friend by your side is certainly very useful.

A Support System. Whenever you go through a difficult phase in your life, as we all do, having someone to support you can make all the difference.

Just talking to someone who passes no judgment and acknowledges how you feel can be very empowering. And while you may be way too hard on yourself, a true friend will show you kindness and help you to get back on track.

Keeping Active. A life without friends probably means too much time spent in front of the TV, the computer screen, or your mobile phone. Having friends makes you more active as you take part in outdoor events, go walking, play sports, or plan other activities together. This is vital for your physical health, as well as being much more fun than sitting at home alone.

De-stressing. It’s important to relieve stress and spending time with friends can do that. Even a phone call or a five-minute chat may be all it takes to help you get to a better headspace. You can have a moan about your job or the kids, and immediately feel better afterward. Bottling everything up inside you is a surefire way to accrue large amounts of harmful stress for body and soul.

Talking Sense. One other advantage to having friends is that they will often talk more sense than we do when we feel emotionally charged. Their level-headedness can save us from acting without thinking and making serious mistakes.

They help us to calm down when we cannot do it ourselves, acting as a stop valve for irrational or destructive behavior.

Adding Meaning. We are all capable of going to a football match alone, but it’s so much more fun when we share the experience. Spending your leisure time with friends brings more value to each moment and gives your life extra purpose and meaning. This is essential for a healthy mindset, even if your favorite team loses!

Having a Confidante. Being able to share your deepest thoughts, emotions, and even secrets can be very liberating. Friends offer a space where you can express yourself, safe in the knowledge that your confidence won’t be breached.

Trust and loyalty are essential in any relationship but in a friendship, they are a crucial prerequisite and without them, the pact will inevitably break down.

Being Honest. We need people to be honest with us, even if it doesn’t feel too pleasant at the time. A good friend will tell you the truth, no matter how much it is going to hurt, because they have your best interests at heart in the long run.

If your partner is cheating on you, or your new outfit looks awful, wouldn’t you rather hear it from a friend than from a stranger?

Personal Encouragement. Good friends will help you to achieve your goals by giving you constant encouragement. When you find yourself losing hope or becoming disillusioned, they will be the ones to spur you on to the finish line.

Friends will be there to congratulate you when you reach the end and even if you fail, they will coax you into reaching for new goals and dreams.

Self-Development. Making friends and maintaining those friendships needs a lot of giving and take on both sides. It can be a learning process in which we grow and mature, coming to terms with our faults and allowing ourselves to improve and be better people.

Through friendships, we also acquire better social skills and learn how to communicate more effectively with those around us.

Being Yourself. When you are with friends, you don’t feel the need to be anyone other than who you truly are. This allows you to be free of social restraints and criticism, where you can speak your mind and express your opinions openly.

True friends will like you no matter what you think or believe, even if they don’t agree with you. They have also seen you at your best and your worst and still like you, warts and all!

Unconditional Love. They say that man’s best friend is a dog because it loves its owner unconditionally, and they are probably right. If you can form friendships with people who love you without expecting anything back in return, then you have discovered the secret to what a true friend is.

You may be loved by your family, which is great, but the unconditional love of a friend isn’t linked to blood ties or from any sense of responsibility. It is pure, unadulterated friendship.

Enjoyment. Friends help you to enjoy life more. Together, you can do fun activities, laugh, joke, and spend time doing the things you both love.

This is an essential bonding experience that contributes to forming lifetime friendships with fond memories as their foundations.

Laughter is also extremely good for you and letting your hair down now and again is the best kind of therapy there is.

Quality of Life. Having friends increases your sense of belonging and combats feelings of social isolation and loneliness. You may have few or no family members, and therefore, friends can often be a genuine substitute and kindred spirit.

They will also help you to deal with trauma, pain, loss, and illness, providing you the support that you need to deal with all of the challenges in life.

It’s all about having real connections with people that you like who, in turn, like you. This is a mutual bond that knows no limits. I often think of Christopher Robin and Winnie The Pooh – two fictional characters created by A.A. Milne, who depicts the beauty of friendship so well in his books.

Both boy and bear would pass the day conversing about what being friends means, exchanging wisdom that still carries great weight today. Friend quotes such as, “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside,” reveal just how bitter the absence of a friend can be in our lives.

If you want to make more friends, you should read How To Win Friends and Influence People.

This book teaches you the techniques and tools that can help transform your relationships and conversations with Dale Carnegie, a pioneer of the ‘self-improvement’ genre. 

The book examines how to win over others to your way of thinking, how to become a great leader and how to make people like you. You don’t get what you want by forcing people to do what you want; you get what you want by genuinely persuading them and following others’ lead. The techniques he explains are easy to apply and straightforward.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes and friendships can be struck up between the most unsuspecting people. Some of the most well-known friendships in history were between figures you wouldn’t normally put together. Mark Twain and Helen Keller, T.S Eliot and Groucho Marx, Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe spring to mind.

But there are also lots of fictional besties from pop culture who we love because of their undying devotion to each other and unconditional love. We have Thelma and Louise, Bill and Ted, Frodo and Sam, and even Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. Great friendships, wherever they come from, stand the test of time and we love these characters because we understand what they give to each other – the gift of friendship.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the popular American sitcom ‘Friends’ was such a big hit. It allowed us, the audience, to take part in the lives of a group of good friends and experience all of their ups and downs from the safety of our homes.

It was fun, entertaining, had some great characters, and covered life’s problems so well.

Why seek real friends when we have Joey or Rachel to rely on, right? The appeal of ‘Friends’ is evident even today, with 20-somethings rediscovering a world of old-fashioned nostalgia free of Twitter and Tiktok references. The beauty and power of the show lay in its portrayal of genuine, platonic love, which is something that many of us seem to be missing today.

It’s very common for young children to have ‘imaginary friends’. In fact, up to 65% of children below the age of 7 are reported to have had an imaginary companion, making it pretty normal behaviour.

My eldest son had an invisible friend until about the age of 4, which seemed strange at first but we got used to it. We had to set an extra dinner plate for his ‘friend’, and leave an empty chair for him to sit on.

When my second son came along and reached the toddler stage, my eldest son now had a real person to amuse himself with and his invisible friend eventually stopped showing up for dinner.

What does this phenomenon tell us about the basic human desire to have friends? Maybe quite a lot, with researchers mentioning things such as meeting a child’s need for support, companionship, and entertainment.

As parents, we can provide all three but having friends to do that just seems to be much more fun.

You don’t need to have hundreds of friends –quality is obviously better than quantity. Even if you have a long list of people you know, having one or two people who you can count on through thick and thin is more meaningful than lots of ‘superficial’ acquaintances.

Nurturing such close friendships takes time and effort, so you must be prepared to do so as we go through this article.

I’m not going to tell you that you need to go out today and start hunting today for the perfect friend. What I will tell you instead is that you can find friends anywhere, anytime.

There will always be opportunities to make new friends, no matter at what stage of your life you find yourself in. But before you can do that, you need to begin by asking yourself one crucial question: what kind of friend can I be?

That’s the most important step you need to take because if you don’t know how to be a good friend, how can you expect to find one? Let’s take a look at the key points in this article:

  • No other relationship can of er you the same merits as true friendship.
  • Friends meet a basic human need for companionship and support.
  • Real friends are essential if you want to avoid the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation.
  • Friends help you to stay healthy and live longer.
  • They also improve your overall well-being and state of mind.
  • Having friends helps you to mature and develop as a person.
  • A true friend allows you to be your true self.
  • Friends bring purpose, meaning, and enjoyment to life.
  • Friendship is based on unconditional love and mutual respect.
  • There are always opportunities to make new friends.

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