In a few days, people around the world will be celebrating Valentine’s Day, supposedly the most romantic day of the year.
Whilst this year’s celebrations will be quite different, the thought of overcrowded restaurants and a rose for the lady has never been remotely close to anything that I would consider romantic.
In recent years, there has been a movement to include friendships in the celebrations including Galentines and Palentines Day’s and I think that makes huge sense.
It’s friendship and the love that comes from those friends, that I would like to talk about today.
Friendships are so important in our lives and can have a major impact on our physical and mental wellbeing – for good or bad, depending on your friends.
Good friends play a significant role in our overall health and it’s a fact that older adults with friends and a good social life are likely to live longer than their peers who live a more solitary life.
We look to our friends to help us celebrate the good times, the milestones in our lives, to have fun with, to laugh with and to support us in the not so good times - we want to support and we want to be supported.
Life gets in the way of friends sometimes, we often can’t work out how to divide our time between partners, children, working long hours, chores, family commitments, blah blah blah and if we are not careful, our friendships can fall by the wayside.
Having friends and maintaining healthy friendships is not always easy. It takes time and a willingness on both sides, to both build and maintain them. They shouldn’t feel like a chore, they shouldn’t feel like hard work and they should enhance your life not make it more difficult.
When you put in the time to stay in touch and make yourself available as a friend, there are a whole range of wellbeing benefits, some of which you may not even be aware of and probably, neither will your friends.
A true friend will:
Increase your sense of belonging
Improve your self-confidence
Increase your sense of purpose
Boost your happiness
Improve your self-worth
Help you cope with life traumas such as illness, divorce, job loss or the death of a loved one
Reduce your stress
Identify the things you are good at, even when you can’t see it yourself
Improve your mood
Make you laugh
Be a positive influence if you are choosing unhealthy lifestyle habits
Keep you mentally strong
Know your quirks and still want to spend time with you
Help you to stay active
Know when you are not feeling yourself
Stop decline in your brain health (in older people)
Help you learn about yourself and your weaknesses (a true friend will talk to you about your weaknesses and help you to improve. They won’t judge you, they will want to help)
Often know you better than you know yourself
Tell you if you have spinach in your teeth
The list is actually endless…but you get the picture, friendship has huge, far-reaching benefits.
When looking at the list, some people might think why do I need friends, I’ve got a partner or family members to take care of that stuff. That’s fine too, but sometimes family have a hidden agenda, perhaps a judgement, even when they don’t mean to.
A friend helps with the things on the list because they want to, not because they think they have to or it’s expected of them.
Oh and it’s as important to be a good friend as it is to have good friends. Be reliable and dependable, be fun, be open and available, be kind and listen and show you can be trusted.
I’ve been asked a few times in sessions, how many friends should you have as an adult, what’s a good number? I think the answer is whatever feels right for you.
The quality of your friends is far more important. It’s great to have a wide network of friends and acquaintances but as long as you have a few friends, that you are close to and that are there for you during the good times and bad, then you have exactly what you need.
Lockdown has of course meant that perhaps we haven’t been able to see our friends so much.
This Palentines, Galentines or Valentines whichever name suits you, celebrate your friendships. If you haven’t been in touch with your friends for a while, why not call or perhaps write them a letter this week and let them know how much they mean to you.
Tell them how much you appreciate their friendship – it’s these people that have such a huge impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Being in touch will help you feel more alive and more engaged.
And right now, that’s exactly what we all need.
Get in touch if this is something that you recognise and would like help with, we can have a chat about how I could help and support you – I would love to hear from you.