Monday, March 16, 2015

Why Our Friends Are Incredibly Important

The friends we choose have more impact over the quality of our lives then most of us realize.  They impact our happiness levels, our personal choices and habits, our feelings or fulfillment vs. loneliness, etc.

Here are the reasons I have come up with about why its so important to choose our friends carefully and how they impact our lives in numerous ways:

1. Quality, worthwhile friends give us feelings of self worth, affirmation, understanding, warmth, happiness and support.  After spending time with these people, we tend to feel a mixture of feelings like these.  (Of course, there are times when a friend is going through something difficult and may not give us these types of feelings.  They may be struggling and in need to extra support themselves.  This is a normal part of life and friendships.  But this should be occasionally, not regularly.  Healthy people do not constantly have problems or lots of issues).

2. Quality friends are a good influence on us.  Our friends heavily influence our own choices and habits, much, much more so then we often realize.  So its important to choose carefully and to pick people who influence us to be our best selves.  Who we surround ourselves with influences who we become.

3. The right friends inspire us in some way.  Whether because of their incredible wit and sense of humor, or their charismatic personality and warmth, or their hardworking ambition, or their artistic talent and creativity, or their loyalty and kindness.  The list goes on.  But good friends posses qualities that we ourselves can admire, or aspire to.  They move us to want to be better versions of ourselves.

4. Quality friendships should be fun!  Friendship should be 80% fun and 20% tough stuff (things like, supporting your friend through divorce or relationships ending, or a death in their family, or a tough time in their life).  So, with the right friends, you have great fun!

5. Great friends are a combination of being a good sounding board and a good listener.  With a good friend, you should feel that their advice would generally be valid and worthwhile.  Though good friends dispense advice sparingly, generally only when asked.  But when you do ask for their advice, it should be something you would generally trust.  And on the flip side, great friends are great listeners.  They make you feel heard, focused on, understood and cared about.  (And of course, obviously even the best listeners cannot be 100% focused literally every single moment of every interaction.  Everyone falters a bit and has moments of distraction.  Or occasions when they are stressed or tired.  But overall, a good friend is a good listener and puts in the effort to do this).

6.  Great friends are generally uplifting, happy people.  You should feel fulfilled, uplifted and happier after spending time with them.  If you find yourself often feeling negative, or drained, or bored, or less fulfilled, then these are likely not great friendships.

7.  Good friends are generous and reliable.  There is an equality to your relationship.  It feels generally equal, in terms of give and take.  This includes: proposing plans to one another, making time for each other, generally balanced talking and listening times, etc.  With good friends, there is a balance.  (Though of course, there are occasions of imbalance.  During traumas or tough times, big life changes like marriage or moving, these are times when one friend might be leaning on the other more so and that is ok.  But it shouldn't become a regular imbalance).
Good friends can also be counted on.  To keep their word.  To follow through with doing as they say. To be loyal, trustworthy and reliable.

8.  Good friends can communicate openly.  If there are hurt feelings or someone feels angered by the other, they can talk about this honestly and work through it.  Feeling as though you can approach your friends about these issues indicates a close and real friendship.

9.  Good friends are open-minded and generally non-judgmental.  One should feel comfortable and secure talking to good friends about most topics.  As though you will not be judged, or looked down upon, or dismissed.  But instead, listened to with open mindedness, possibility, interest and love.

10.  Quality friends are generally mentally healthy people.  They basically, for the most part, have their sh*t together.  If someone doesn't, they will not generally be a good influence, or mature enough to be a truly good friend (in terms of things like being a reliable friend, being a good listener, etc).

And, see below for two short interesting clips I found on the internet about the influence of friendships on our lives. Pretty thought provoking.

Our habits determine the person we become. 

Want to be successful? Surround yourself with successful people.
Want to be happy? Surround yourself with happy people.
Want to be healthy? Surround yourself with healthy people.
Want to become more confident? Surround yourself with confident people.

In essence, we become more like the people we hang out with.

It’s like what Jim Rohn tells us: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Take a moment to reflect on the following:  Who are the people you spend most time with? Do they elevate you or bring you down? Are they proactive go-getters exhibiting qualities that you admire or people who just sit and do nothing? Do they motivate or drain you?

(from an article on about "Can your circle of friends influence who you become.")

Psychologists have long believed that friendships have a direct affect on our overall health and are closely linked to our life expectancy. Research has shown that having few friends is the mortality risk equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Being with good friends lowers your blood pressure and has shown to increase our chances of recovering from disease. If a friend gains weight or gets depressed, we are more likely to also gain weight or get depressed. On that same note, friends who make positive life choices tend to influence those around them to make the same choices. We see this increase as our digital circles become larger. This can illustrate how we adapt to the norms of those we are emotionally bonded to, even if we don't see them as often as we see other people. Through social media, our friends often are the ones who influence what articles we read and where we get our news.

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