Loneliness is known to be a threat to our physical and mental health, social connections are a crucial component of maintaining good health and wellbeing. It is estimated that there are 9 million lonely people in the UK. The lack of social connection they are experiencing is thought to be as damaging to their health as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
We have all felt the benefit that good friendships have on our mental health. Nothing leaves you feeling brighter than getting together with friends. Friendships are especially important if you are going through a difficult time and you need someone to talk to. Having connections with others lowers stress, decreases your risk of developing depression, boosts self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth. The physical benefits of friendship are also just as incredible. Feeling loved and connected reduces your risk of developing chronic disease including heart disease and dementia. You are also more likely to maintain your independence as you age and have a lower use of medication.
While friendships can be a source of support, love and laughter, I think it’s important to be aware of negative friendships. In my youth, I tolerated friendships that dragged me down. I has so called ‘friends’ that would judge me harshly, criticise me and be anything but supportive of my goals. A true friend is understanding and encouraging. They see the good in you, even when you can’t, they lift you up and don’t tear you down. They applaud your successes loudly without a hint of jealousy. There is balance in a good friendship, you are there for each other equally.
I think that I tolerated bad friendships in the past because I didn’t have confidence to stand up for myself or walk away. If you find yourself with friends that do any of the following- they’re highly critical, they judge you or use you for their own gain, work on your relationship with yourself. If you build up your levels of self love and compassion, you’ll find that you no longer suffer the company of bad friends. Once you realise your worth I don’t think it is necessary to consciously confront people about their behaviour or cut people out of your life, you will just naturally drift away from them. Of course, if you really value a friend and they have been acting differently lately, have an honest conversation with them.
I’m very lucky to now have a small circle of friends that I can rely on. Here’s a gift I received from a friend recently, if this isn’t the sign of a great friendship where women empower women then I don’t know what is!