Healthy, loving friendships with other human beings can be powerful and enrich your life in numerous ways. Not only can they offer emotional support, but they can also contribute to positive physical and mental health benefits.
Below, we’ll explore friendship, love, and ways that both can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.
What Is Friendship?
Friendship tends to be a mutually positive, respectful, and trust-based connection with another human being. When two people are truly friends with one another, they tend to care about one another's feelings, enjoy spending time together, and have similar interests and outlooks. Friends can also be unique and have differences of opinion, but friends are often more alike than they are different, even if this likeness is not readily apparent.
When you have a strong friendship with someone, you tend to accept them for who they are, and they tend to accept you. This reciprocity usually involves not trying to change a person or mold them into something they are not. Friends often cherish and appreciate a person's quirks instead of resenting them or attempting to alter their personality.
Strong friendships in life can sometimes broaden your horizons and help you grow and see things from a perspective other than your own. Friendships can also expose you to different experiences and cultures. Friends can often help you believe in yourself, stay positive during tough times, and remember all that you are capable of achieving.
What Is Love?
Love can come in many forms and has often been described as one of the most profound emotions that people experience in life. Many people who have experienced love for another person have found love to be life-changing and monumental. Individuals who experience romantic love often enjoy spending time with their significant other, experiencing intimacy, and being part of a union.
Like friendship, love can be a powerful and life-changing feeling. Love often involves caring deeply for someone and wanting what is best for them. Love tends to be different from lust, infatuation, or obsession. When you love someone, you usually want them to be happy, safe, and at peace. This may be why many people make sacrifices for someone they love or go to extraordinary lengths when they believe that person may be in danger.
How Can Friendship And Love Change Your Life?
While many people know of the emotional benefits of love and friendship, many people might not be aware of the health benefits. Having loving people in your life can make a difference in more than one area.
Improved Physical Health
When you are around people who love and care for you (and vice versa), a hormone known as oxytocin is often released. Oxytocin has been linked to a reduction in blood pressure, greater energy, and reduced negative emotions like fear, stress, and anxiety. Experiencing these negative feelings regularly can negatively affect your health over time, not just on a physical level, but also emotionally and psychologically. For this reason, spending more time around loved ones may help mitigate against these effects.
Oxytocin also tends to improve peoples' abilities to adapt socially and experience general wellness in everyday life.
Lesser Likelihood Of Depression
The existence of love and friendship in an individual's life has also been linked to a reduced likelihood of experiencing depression. When we have positive interpersonal relationships in our lives, we tend to feel happier, have more social experiences, and enjoy a higher quality of life. Healthy friendships can positively affect your mental health, which may make it important to assess which people you’d like to surround yourself with.
Support During Challenging Times
Everyone experiences challenging times at one point or another, and challenges do not always manifest themselves in the same manner for each person. Sometimes, people experience rough times in the form of being laid off from work, losing a loved one, or experiencing a natural disaster. However, having friendship and love in life may help ensure that you have a support system to fall back on in times of distress.
When facing challenging times, it can be important to be willing to accept help from those who care about us. Often, people are led to believe that they must do everything on their own and rely on no one else. However, this may not be the best course of action. While there is nothing inherently wrong with being independent and self-sufficient, allowing the people who love you to be supportive can serve as a healthy balance between independence and self-sufficiency.
How To Find Friendship And Love
Depending on who you are, where you live, and what your lifestyle is, you may or may not have a hard time developing loving relationships. If you find this process challenging, then the following tips and advice may prove to be of value.
Engage In Recreational Activities You Enjoy
Participating in recreational activities that you enjoy may help you attract friendships and love into your life. One of the most effective ways to make this happen may be to put yourself in places where you can meet like-minded people. For example, taking a recreational class can allow you to do something that you love while meeting others with similar interests. This may set the foundation for loving friendships to form.
Don't Be Afraid To Be Yourself
Sometimes, people believe they must adopt a certain persona or change who they are to find friendship and love in life. As common as this misconception may be, it isn’t usually accurate. True friendship and love allow you to be who you are without having to change or become something or someone you’re not. Sometimes, it can be tempting to want to fit in with others, but authenticity may help you find the right people for you. Finding those individuals may be easier if you practice being yourself and don’t try to change who you are to satisfy others.
Setting boundaries may help determine the behaviors you are willing to accept from others, which may lead to more fulfilling relationships. Understanding what friendship and love entail may help you set healthy boundaries. Loving relationships can serve as positive and uplifting contributions to your life rather than bring you down. If you feel that friendship and love are bringing you down, you may benefit from reassessing your inner circle and surrounding yourself with healthier people.
Online Counseling With BetterHelp
If you’re having trouble fostering healthy friendships, online therapy may be a beneficial tool. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you’ll have the opportunity to work with one of the thousands of licensed therapists available on the platform. This means you can find someone with whom you can establish a rapport, and you can always switch therapists if needed. You can communicate in a way that’s most comfortable for you, whether by live chat, phone, or video chat.
You can also message your therapist outside of sessions through in-app messaging. If you find yourself struggling with a friendship, have a question, or just want to chat, you can send an in-app message to your therapist, and they will get back to you when they’re able.
The Efficacy Of Online Counseling
Studies show that online therapy can help individuals cope with symptoms of depression and similar mental health conditions that may take a toll on friendships. In a study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers examined the effects of internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (ICBT) on depression and anxiety. The results showed that individuals who completed the online interventions showed a significant reduction in symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely accepted method of counseling that aims to help participants reframe inaccurate, negative thought patterns that may be leading to problematic behaviors in friendships.
“Pamela Heyman is outstanding. She listens extremely well, has excellent follow up, recommends constructive feedback with a positive outlook, and she challenges me to strive for my goal of better family/friend/workplace relationships. Thank you Pamela for working with me to understand myself and how my life experiences mold me. This is helping me prosper with interactions … I have with personalities/people in my life.”
“Dr. Groble provided a safe environment to talk about all I’ve bottled up inside for months, and it was the relief that I needed to think clearly again. With all the trauma that 2020 brought, coupled with isolation and distance from loved ones, she gave me tools to help me move forward. Processing this with her renewed my energy to find healthy new friendships and activities that can be done safely during the pandemic. She reminded me that when we get overwhelmed, we can refocus away from the negativity, focus on the good, and work to define our own life and path. Often we are stressed because we either expect something from other people (or ourselves) that they’re not. She assured me that my struggles are normal, and helped me accept myself a lot more than I’ve ever done before.”
What is the purpose of love and friendship?
Love and Friendship is a satirical book written by Jane Austen and later adapted into film. The film centers Lady Susan Vernon (played by Kate Beckinsale), a character from Austen’s later book, Lady Susan. In the movie, the widowed young woman pursues wealthy gentlemen as potential matches for herself and her daughter. Through the search, Lady Susan finds a young man named Sir James Martin (played by Tom Bennett) for her daughter to marry. Love and Friendship is lighthearted and witty, offering a critique of 18th century romance while uplifting friendship as “the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.”
By nature, humans are social beings. Friendships and other forms of love can boost an individual's sense of purpose and identity, improve well-being, and contribute to greater physical health. A unique aspect of friendships is their voluntariness (unlike love between relatives), and their fluidity throughout life.
How do you manage love and friendship?
The following suggestions can help you maintain a strong marriage, friendship, or family relationship:
- Make space for one-on-one time: Prioritizing individual time with loved ones can help sustain strong bonds, connection, and trust. This can be especially important for those whose love language is “quality time.”
- Prioritize communication: Setting aside time to speak openly about your relationship can help ensure both parties' needs and expectations are addressed.
- Make plans for the future: Your availability may not stay the same way over the years, but it’s important to uphold your closest relationships, both romantic and platonic. For example, you could plan for a fun evening at a concert, or go to an exercise class together. If you have family, work, or other obligations that take up a significant amount of your time, it may be a good idea to make future plans with friends before parting ways with them.
Is friendship a good foundation for love?
Some, but not all, friendships develop into love. Indicators that a friendship may be a good foundation for love include the presence of:
- Emotional intimacy and vulnerability
- Mutual respect
- Shared core values and admiration
Of the different types of friendships (pleasure, utility, or good), friendships of good are the most true and often develop into affectionate love.
What is true love and true friendship?
In literature and popular culture, “true love” is often unrealistically represented or oversimplified as a passionate romance. However, true love is simply a genuine, unique, and healthy relationship in which both partners accept their lover's or friend’s flaws and admire them for who they are. A true friendship is one formed on mutual respect and unconditional love, which makes it a powerful example of true love.
Which is the best relationship in love and friendship?
Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship is written in the form of letters between Laura and her friend's daughter, Marianne. In these letters, Laura attempts to influence Marianna by warning her of the trouble that can arise from fast-paced romantic love. Some of the most interesting relationships in the novel include those between Lady Susan Vernon and Frederica, Reginald DeCourcy and Lady Susan, and Sir James and Catherine.
Why is friendship the best relationship in the world?
Friendships can provide emotional support and intimacy, a sense of belonging, practical help, insight, and joy. For these reasons and more, many people consider true friendships to be one of the most valuable relationships one can have.
Are love and friendship the same thing?
There are many different types of love, such as the love between parent and child, physically intimate love, enduring love, and self-love. The love between close friends is called “philia” or “affectionate love,” meaning a deep love that occurs without romantic attraction. This type of love is platonic in nature and it’s often called “brotherly love.” Though close friendships can include love, they do not encompass all the different types of love one may experience in other relationships.
Why is friendship the purest form of love?
In society, love is sometimes only thought of in a romantic sense. However, in a sense, friendship can be considered to be one of the purest forms of love because it’s built on mutual respect, understanding, trust, and shared values. Love beyond fleeting attraction is built on the deliberate choice to make efforts to prioritize, empathize, and understand another person.
What are healthy ways to express affection and love for a friend?
To express your love and affection for your friend, consider thinking about how they best receive love. Love languages are typically associated with romantic couples, but they apply to all relationships:
- Quality time: If your friend’s primary love language is quality time, they feel most loved when they’re spending intentional time together without distractions (such as cell phones).
- Words of affirmation: When your friend helps you navigate a challenging situation, consider saying something like, “Thanks for being my rock through this.” If their love language is words of affirmation, your verbal acknowledgements will be very meaningful for them.
- Acts of service: If your friend is sick, you might consider dropping off their favorite comfort meal or taking their kids to school for them. People whose love language is acts of service most appreciate actions that show someone's love.
- Receiving gifts: Small gifts and gestures demonstrate thoughtfulness and consideration. If this is your friend’s love language, consider buying them a treat they love from the grocery store, making them a homemade card, or dropping off their favorite kind of coffee at their work.
- Physical touch: Friends whose love language is physical touch may feel most supported when you give them a hug, style their hair, or rub their back while they share something difficult.
How do people maintain good friendships and or relationships?
Healthy relationships, whether romantic or platonic, require communication, vulnerability, mutual respect, and sharing. Making the time to talk to one another routinely can help you maintain strong bonds and stay connected. Consider setting up a routine lunch date or activity if you’re having trouble prioritizing important relationships.
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