#WellnessWeds: Why it’s Key to Surround Yourself With Positive, Supportive Friends

With the holiday season upon us, many of us will be inundated with cocktail parties, after-work get-togethers and other opportunities to get together with friends. It can all add to the hectic stress of the season and prompt this question: Are your friends making you happy, or are they a drain on your mood?

If I’ve learned anything as I’ve kicked and screamed my way into adulthood, it’s that friends are absolutely vital. I’m so thankful for the friends who make me laugh, think or simply listen to me vent. And when you have kids, you begin to see your friends as a release valve from the stresses of parenting.

Do Your Friends Make You Happy?

Yet most of us have probably had the sad experience of drifting apart from a friend who no longer fulfils the role they once did. Maybe they complain incessantly, they are overly self-absorbed or they become selfish — whatever the reason, they leave you feeling cold, less positive than you did going out.

Turns out it’s important to surround yourself with positive friends:

In a U.S. study, researchers measured the happiness of 4,739 people at regular intervals over 20 years. The study found that a person’s happiness depends on the happiness of people they connect with. Amazingly, it also found that happiness spreads not only between direct friends, but also among friends of your friends’ friends! And those good feelings seem to be the most contagious among friends of the same sex.

“People with more supportive friends are less likely to develop depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Toupey Luft, a psychologist in Penticton, B.C. “Though you can’t choose your family or work colleagues, you do have control over friendships.”

We’ve all had our blue periods, right? I know I have. But even at my lowest points — or especially at those times —  I always was extra grateful for my friends, who accepted me unconditionally and even (gasp!) seemed to enjoy having me around, despite my fears that my gloomy mood made me toxic to others. Maybe I was lucky, but I always looked at friends as an opportunity to escape thinking about myself and my problems.

Fine-Tuned Friends

When I think about it, some of my best friends today face daunting economic, marital or other problems in their personal lives. We don’t shy away from talking about these things — after all, what are friends for? — but we don’t dwell on the negatives to the point that I come away feeling emotionally drained. I think good friends develop a sense of when to let sleeping dogs lie and focus instead on fun and companionship.

The Best Health magazine article I quoted from above suggests asking yourself what you value in life to determine the qualities you want in a friend, joining hobby groups and being honest about your needs. I’d also suggest weighing the issue of laughter; does your friend share or help expand your sense of humor? Do you laugh together regularly? I think that’s absolutely key to a good friendship.

What about you? What qualities do you most value and look for in friends?

Photo by beccafawley

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