Keeping Your Friendships Healthy Keeps You Healthy, Too

Two Men Sitting at CafeIt’s a new year, a time that calls out to us and says, “Take notice!”—reminding us to appreciate our lives and to do the things we would regret not doing.

One of those things is maintaining our friendships.

In 2012, Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse, recorded the most common regrets of her dying patients. One of the top five regrets: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Charles Caleb Colton said, “True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost.”

Friendship is not something to take lightly. Friends make us laugh, help us talk through problems, join us for adventures, and encourage us when we’re feeling discouraged. Friends can make your life easier by helping you out with things you can’t manage alone. Friends can inspire you to take on challenges that could improve your life, such as running a marathon, going to a speed-dating event, or doing a weight-loss program together.

As Helen Keller once said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Friendships Are Good for Your Health

Numerous studies have shown that friendship can be good for a person’s health. The health benefits reported in these studies include lower blood pressure, strengthened immune systems, and decreased stress.

An Australian study showed that people with strong social networks lived longer. The study suggested the need for the development of strategies to promote the establishment and maintenance of such relationships in later life.

Why Do We Lose Touch with Friends?

There are times when we stop being friends due to incompatibility, toxicity, or an irreparable injury. In those cases, it may be in your best interest to sever such relationships. But with good friends, sometimes we lose touch simply due to lifestyle changes.

Marriage can disrupt friendship connections as spouses become more dependent on each other, and less so on friends, for meeting their social needs. With the arrival of children, many women experience a decrease in the number of friendships due to the demands of parenthood. Additionally, preoccupation with career development can leave little time to spend with friends.

Busy schedules, long distances, and feelings of resentment about the infrequency of contact all contribute to the distance that can grow between friends.

How to Stay in Touch

Make the time! Remind yourself of the importance of friendship and then make the effort to stay in touch.

Forgive yourself for being an imperfect friend who disappears into a busy life. Some friends may be disappointed that you aren’t more available, but good friends would rather have some of you than lose you entirely.

Don’t get caught up in resentment or hurt feelings due to a friend’s lack of initiative to connect.

Staying in touch can fit your lifestyle. A little bit can go a long way. Calling, emailing, hosting a party, planning a trip, and using social media are all good ways to stay in touch. Accept invitations from friends whenever possible. Sometimes you do have to make your friendships a priority.

Don’t get caught up in resentment or hurt feelings due to a friend’s lack of initiative to connect. Some friends may just be bad at staying in touch. If you are better at staying in touch, let that be your contribution to the relationship.

Judge the relationship on the other person’s happiness to hear from you, rather than on his or her friendship management skills. Keep in mind, though, that if every attempt to reconnect with someone begins with a criticism of his or her absence, he or she may eventually lose joy in hearing from you.

It’s a new year—a good time to check in with old friends.

References:

  1. Giles, L.C., Glonek, G.F.V., Lusczc, M.A., & Andrews, G.R. (2005). Journal of Epidemiology & Community Mental Health, Vol 59(7), 574-579 doi:10.1136/jech.2004.025429
  2. Monsour, M. (2002). Women and Men as Friends: Relationships Across the Life Span in the 21st Century. Mahwah, NK: Erlbaum.
  3. Valeo, T. (2007). Good Friends Are Good for You. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/good-friends-are-good-for-you
  4. Ware, B. (2012). The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Rena Pollak, LMFT, CGP, therapist in Encino, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sid

    Sid

    January 4th, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    I had so many friends in high school and college but now that we have all graduated and gone our separate ways it feels impossible top keep in touch anymore. I think that we are all so busy trying to move forward with our professional lives that we have all kind of forgotten the importance of keeping tabs on our personal lives too

  • biggs

    biggs

    January 4th, 2016 at 5:01 PM

    when you want accountability for your actions, look to those friends to keep you in line

  • Warner

    Warner

    January 5th, 2016 at 9:47 AM

    Call me sensitive but it does hurt my feelings when I feel like I am the only one going out of my way to connect and get together. I understand that things come up but when you feel like there is an excuse given every time you want to plan something then you sort of begin to take it a little personally. I don’t want that to end certain friendships that I have but at the same time it seems that there should be equal effort from both parties.

  • killian

    killian

    January 6th, 2016 at 8:36 AM

    Keep those friends as close as possible.
    They can be a true lifeline when things go astray

  • paige

    paige

    January 8th, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    Some of the best times that I can ever remember having are those when it is me and my girlfriends. We might go away for the weekend or we might just get together for the evening. But these are women who have been in my life for a very long time and no matter what is going on in my life I know that I can always depend on them. They know me, they understand me, they just get me at times when I sometimes wonder if my husband and kids do.

  • zac

    zac

    January 11th, 2016 at 2:49 PM

    my friends and my dogs
    the two things i never wish to be without

  • Rhetta

    Rhetta

    January 12th, 2016 at 10:20 AM

    What is it about getting older that lets us allow those friendships that we have always valued and treasured to slip away? I have had so many great people in my life at one time or another and now it feels like they are all gone. I think that it was the combination of families and marriages that let us grow apart, and then you never know where they are anymore. Facebook is a great way to connect but all of that in some ways feels so superficial.

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