The Importance of Relationships: How Friendships Can Affect Your Health

The importance of relationships really can’t be overemphasized. Close friendships are a vital part of a healthy, happy life. Having people you know you can rely on, whether they’re your significant other or best friend, brings security and comfort. But the joy of friendship is far more than just enjoying life’s adventures together. One of the most fulfilling parts of a friendship is the act of being a good friend. Providing comfort during trying times is as rewarding for you as it is comforting to the friend you’re helping. As they say, “No man is an island,” and life can be far more fulfilling when you let others in.

The Key to a Strong Friendship

One of my closest friends has been in my life for more than a decade, and we’ve really been there for each other through good times and bad. When I went through a tough time where I couldn’t even laugh, she just sat with me and didn’t expect anything in return. And I’ve done the same for her, letting her vent without worry about whether she’d be accepted. It’s truly a gift to know that someone has seen you at your worst and still accepts you, and accepting others in the same way is just as important..

Friendship isn’t just a feeling; it’s action. When your friends are in need, you’re there for them, whether it’s convenient or not. You see each other at your best and your worst. Being a good friend isn’t always easy, but nothing in life that’s worth having is going to come easy. Sometimes you’ll argue, but you’ll always know that in the end you have each other’s backs. The joy and fulfillment you get from helping your friends really has no match.

The Tangible Benefits

Friendships can actually make you a healthier person, both mentally and physically. They can lower your stress levels, reduce depression, and even reduce the risks of high blood pressure. Your friends help you cope with life’s traumas and push you to be healthier, even if it means helping you kick a bad habit to the curb. In fact, friendship is so important that studies have shown that lacking friends can increase a person’s risk of death by 50 percent or more, and is even comparable to the risk from smoking. The benefits of friendship start manifesting when you’re young and continue throughout your life. For example, children with close friendships are more likely to be academically successful. So as you can see, friendship isn’t just a luxury — it’s a vital part of a healthy life.

How to Find New Friends

If you don’t have a close friend right now, there’s no reason to feel sad. Find people you can help. Compliment people when you meet them. Invite people over for dinner. You might wonder, “But where do I find these people to invite out?” The answer’s not as hard as you might think: join a group of people with similar hobbies. You can find local meetings to visit on sites like Meetup, visit a church and get involved, go back to school, or volunteer at an animal shelter, hospital, or activist group. If you’re a regular at an exercise class like a yoga group, why not chat with the people you see there? As long as you make the effort, eventually you’ll find friends you click with.

Considering the importance of relationships, be ready to carve out the time to nurture and grow your friendships. And always remember: It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be worthwhile. Do you have a friend who’s made a big difference in your life? Tell us your story on Twitter.