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Friendships important for belonging, wellness and a healthy life

Friendships important for belonging, wellness and a healthy life
As society continues to evolve thanks to innovative technology, while still recovering from the impact of a global pandemic, the significance of building strong friendships throughout a person’s life has never been more important. While romantic relationships may or may not stand the test of time, some studies indicate how the longevity of friendships can improve a person’s overall quality and satisfaction of life as well as their mental and physical well-being.
At its core, friendships fulfill the need to feel supported, worthy of love, and understood, all while encouraging a healthier lifestyle. As our social and support needs change over time, some friendships will evolve right along with us while others may serve us for a season. These factors can play a significant role in our overall well-being and health.
“Having strong bonds with friends helps us to have a sense of belonging and helps use to improve and maintain our confidence. Good friendships help us to boost our happiness and help us to feel less stressed and lonely when life become difficult,” Katie Yesis, MA, LCPC, Community Based Behavioral Health manager at Trillium Place said. “Being able to prioritize and maintain friendships throughout our lives helps us to have a stronger foundation to who we are and feel connected to others. Long term friendships gives us a few people who have an understanding of our history and can relate to us, but also help when we are struggling in significant life areas.”
It’s not likely that throughout a person’s lifetime there is one person who can fulfill all the needs of support and inclusion friendship offers. But data shows it’s also not necessary to have dozens of friends either.    
“Keep in mind that quality counts more than quantity in friendships,” J. Ronan Woodburn, PhD, Carle BroMenn Medical Center psychologist said. “It can be positive to cultivate a diverse network of friends and social acquaintances, but you may feel a greater sense of belonging and well-being by nurturing close, meaningful relationships with people who will support you through thick and thin.”
As people change over the years, priorities, family obligations and beliefs change too. This can also impact relationships with friends, underscoring the need to consider when friends may be continuing to bring those meaningful support mechanisms into life or when it may be time to focus on other people. Going through changes in your life or moving to a new place may spark the need to make new friends, which as an adult can seem daunting, but the payoff of cultivating strong friendships throughout one’s life is clear.
When friendships are neglected the benefits of support and community that come with those relationships can lead to isolation.
“Someone who may struggle with isolation may experience an increase in mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and overall stress. They may also experience an increase in physical health challenges such as heart disease,” said Yesis.
When faced without the friendships and relationships needed to get through life, it can sometimes be on us to make the first move. Finding group activities and community events that offer a shared interest is a great place to start to build a network of friends.
“Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you're the one giving support, and other times you're on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond. It's as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends,” said Woodburn.
Those struggling with isolation or who need someone to talk to can contact a behavioral health program available throughout the Carle Health system. Visit or more information.

Categories: Staying Healthy

Tags: Behavioral, Friendships, Health, Healthy, Mental, Relationships, Staying, Well-being