Five Reasons to Refuel Your Friendships

by Rosemary Blieszner, Virginia Tech

Most adults have friends and interact with them regularly. You probably do, too. But have you ever thought about why friends are important? Have you been tending your friendship garden lately?

Of course, many types of friends exist, from the very closest to the more casual ones, and they serve many functions in everyday life. There’s not a “right” way to do friendship, and one of the valued features of friend ties is their flexibility. So most people have different kinds of friends. The number doesn’t matter; what’s important, folks say, is affection, companionship, trust, and reciprocity between friends. Research shows that having friendships that involve discussing important aspects of life and sharing interests is vital to your health and well-being.

But sometimes we get so busy managing everyday life that it might seem hard to find time for friends. If you’ve drifted away from some of the people you care about, consider reaching out to renew those bonds. If you need to make new friends, join a group or volunteer so you can meet people whose interests touch yours. A little effort to extend yourself can have a big payoff in how you feel.

Here are five key ways friends contribute to having a better life. They all point to the importance of being a good friend and taking good care of your friendships.

A Happier You

One of the first elements that people mention when defining friend is having a confidant. Being able to talk over one’s joys and concerns with someone who is understanding and supportive is key to affirming your worth as a person. Feeling that you belong and are valued, respected, and loved are important to your psychological well-being.

A Healthier, Longer Life

Friends foster good health by providing information and emotional support. They help each other comply with health and medication regimens. They might offer advice about diet and exercise, recommend medical practitioners, listen to each other’s needs, enjoy each other’s company, and laugh together. These everyday aspects of friendship can help reduce stress from big problems and minor hassles. Managing stress is crucial to good health and a long life, because the physical effects of stress on your body are real and harmful.

A More Vital Person

Friends typically provide companionship for shared interests. They prompt involvement in activities that are meaningful and stimulating. Some folks even make friends with people who are very different from themselves because they love the way those friends introduce them to exciting new groups and pastimes. Cultivating new hobbies and skills or volunteering in the community keeps you fresh and interesting to others.

A More Alert and Productive Lifestyle

Being involved with friends can even help you stay mentally alert and productive. The old saying “two heads are better than one” is true when solving problems and developing creative new strategies. Whether at work or elsewhere, the energy that flows from friendly collaboration can lead to better outcomes than you might find on your own.

A Stronger Sense of Generativity

Generativity means being concerned about the welfare of future generations. In midlife, many people shift from a primary focus on themselves to a strong desire to leave the world a better place. You could think of it as pursuing your vocation, which Frederick Buechner defined as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Friends can motivate you discover your vocation and to be involved in the community in ways that satisfy your generative urge.

    Does being happier, healthier, more vital, alert, productive, and generative sound appealing? If so, cultivate good friends. Turn to them for solace, support, and stimulation. Let them shower you with attention and affection. And don’t forget the reciprocity part of the definition of friend – to receive the benefits of friendship, it’s important to make time to give your friends the same comfort, understanding, and caring that you treasure. Fueling and refueling your friendships will keep them strong.

 

Rosemary Blieszner is an Alumni Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean at the Graduate School at Virginia Tech.