8 Facts Created With a Little Help From My Friends

By Sydney Caulder, MaryDrew Collier, Sydney Brenner, and Andrew Austin

What would you say if I told you that friendship is super important? You wouldn’t be surprised right? Well, what if I told you that it’s so important that it affects our physical health and self-esteem? You may be surprised to learn that people in your social circle could be having a direct impact on your welfare. That’s why it is so important to take the time to evaluate who you surround yourself with. Lucky for you, we did the research for you–here are a few things to keep in mind about your friends.

 

1. Caring for each other can help you care for yourself.

 

Having strong, healthy, close friendships is associated with better mental health in the short-term and the long term, so the care you provide to your friends will ultimately help you too. One way that friendships can become healthier to all parties is by continuously nurturing them. Healthy friendships involve kindness, open-mindedness, honesty, and willingness to listen to and support each other. Healthy relationships are also characterized by equality and individuality, meaning that it is also equally important to maintain a separate identity and have qualities unique to you.

 

2. Avoid friends that thrive on conflict.

Sometimes, we can become bonded with someone through shared negative experiences–this is a common and normal experience. However, if you reflect on a particular friendship and realize that most of the interactions you have with that friend are negative and characterized by conflict, you may want to reflect on the quality of your relationship. For example, one study found that while friendship was associated with better mental well-being overall, friendships that were prone to conflict did not yield these benefits. Say “no” to the negativity and find friends with more positive viewpoints. 

3.  “Fake” friend alert!

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Tbh, lying just to make your “friend” feel better isn’t necessarily the way to maintain your friendship, and may actually harm it. For example, one study found that although we expect coworkers to mask or hide negative emotions like anger, we expect our friends to be authentic in expressing their emotions with us. When a friend can’t be honest with us, it signals a lack of trust and a lack of depth to the relationship. The truth finds its way to the surface eventually.

4. BFFs help each other without expecting anything back.

 

We do favors for friends, and our friends do favors for us. But the defining feature of a good friendship is helping without expecting anything back. This type of relationship is known as a “communal relationship.” In research done by Clark & Mills, they define communal relationships as “believing that one’s partner cares about one’s welfare and will attend and respond to one’s desires, needs, and goal strivings.” In deep, fulfilling friendships, the focus goes away from reciprocity and towards generosity. Cultivate friendships in which helping is sensitive to each others’ needs, rather than what you’re each getting back in return. 

5. Spill ALL your deepest, darkest secrets to your friends.

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Having the core of your friendships built on mutual respect, trust and friendship are the key elements of companionate love, which is the glue keeping close friends together. One way to build on those close friendships is being willing to spill your heart and soul out, and sharing all those intimate details (even your JUICIEST secrets) on your life and who you are as a person, known as self-disclosure. Research has shown us that this willingness to disclose deep information is what lies at the heart of our closest relationships. By sharing this information, we start to like the person more, because we know for sure we can trust them more. With friends you just make, you should consider matching the other person’s level of self-disclosure. By surrounding yourself with people you feel like you can share personal details with you create stronger, healthier friendships. So in order to take your friendships from a 0 to 100 on a whole new level, be willing to spill all your tea.

6. Our friends’ moods are contagious. 

Do you have people in your life that constantly bring you down? If you do, you’re not alone–we’re all susceptible to “mood contagion,” or “catching” the moods of the people around us. This means that it’s important not to surround yourself with people with chronically negative outlooks. For example, one study examining mood contagion in the context of work group dynamics found that the mood of one person in the group (someone who was working with the experimenters, and was instructed to enact different mood states during the session) had a significant impact on the overall mood of the group, as well as their level of conflict and their overall performance on a task. If you leave a day of hanging out with a “friend” feeling emotionally drained or bad about yourself, ask yourself whether the friendship is worth “catching” their moods. 


7. BFFs or BFFs?

“Maximization” is when one picks through many alternative options in order to find the “best” option. Maybe you do this when you’re trying to select a new laptop or outfit. However, some people are “maximizers” in their friendships, and try to evaluate who the “best” friend options are in their social circles. Research suggests that this may not be the best approach to cultivating deep, satisfying friendships. People who have a maximizing view of friend selection also report greater regret in their friendships, lower quality of life, and  can lead to regret, lower quality of life, and less satisfying friendships. This may be because friendship maximizers are too busy wondering if they chose the best friend to actually have a best friend. 

8. Hiding may be EASIER, but that doesn’t mean it’s BETTER.

But wouldn’t life be easier without putting in work for relationships? Keeping close relationships sounds like an exhausting, time-consuming task. Is it worth it? Spongebob doesn’t need it so why do I?

 

A large body of evidence suggests that without meaningful connections with those around us, our health suffers. People who lack social connectedness have lower immune functioning, unhealthy body mass indices, poorer blood sugar control, and decreased rates of cancer survival. You heard right, having good friends means better health. So go seek out that healthy social support!

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