It should come as no surprise that I desperately need friends. (You do, too.)
My longing for good friends has lasted for nearly as long as I can remember. I’ve always hoped and prayed for dear friends who could understand me and love me just the way I am.
The older I’ve gotten and the more friendships I’ve experienced, I realize that can be a tall order. Think about it. Have you been able to understand – really understand – someone else, just the way they are? Once you know them, are you still likely to love them and stand by them through thick and thin?
I have plenty of acquaintances, former classmates and colleagues, relatives and friends. I’m blessed when I realize that I’m not lacking in the relationship department.
But dear friends? Anne of Green Gables’ kind of bosom friends? They’re hard to find.
My favorite friends
I do have my favorite friends. They’re the kinds of people I could easily talk pretty much non-stop for hours with. (Which is fairly uncommon since I’m typically very quiet.) The kinds of people I don’t need to see in person very often – in fact, it may be months or years or sadly, even decades between face-to-face visits. But we pick up right where we left off, without missing a beat.
I love those friends.
I love the way they make me feel during and after our visit. My soul feels alive and energized – like I completely know that I’m understood. Someone else can relate to me. Someone else can encourage me and commiserate with me. We don’t have to plan anything to do – just sitting and catching up is all we need.
And once I leave those special moments spent together in true friendship, I feel like I can take on the world.
Just a couple weeks ago, my best friend and I met before our families start back with our hectic school schedules. While our children played together, we talked non-stop. For FIVE HOURS. And at the end of our visit, I knew we probably had at least five more hours of visiting left in us, but I had to leave so we both could start the everyday tasks wives and mothers have – cooking dinners, caring for our families.
Why good friends are good for you
I’m not just imagining that my good friends leave me feeling great.
Scientific studies have shown that social support reduces blood pressure, heart rate, stress, and risk of dementia while also helping your immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.
There is a great benefit to feeling appreciated and understood. Laughing – and crying – with someone else really makes a positive difference. Satisfying relationships are not only stress-relief, but they also lead to happiness. [Source]
Why bad relationships are bad for you
Just like good relationships benefit your health, bad relationships harm your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, a study reported “that the risk of death among men and women with the fewest social ties was more than twice as high as the risk for adults with the most social ties.”
Aside from your risk of death increasing, the stress of poor relationships also can increase your risk of heart problems, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, mental health problems, and disruptions to your immune system. [Source]
Just like I feel the positive effects for days after I visit with good friends, I experience negative effects for days after I interact with people who stress me out. I notice interrupted sleep, depression, high blood pressure, anger, bitterness, and even physical pain.
After taking note of how certain people make me feel – either positively or negatively – I know who I need to proactively seek out to spend time with and who I need to avoid for the sake of my health.
I know I can’t avoid every stressful relationship. And really, I wouldn’t want to; God can refine you through difficult relationships and situations. But when I deal with stress-inducing people, my healthy friendships become so much more valuable. That’s when I know I desperately need friends.
How have your friends helped improve your life? How are you carving out time for your friends?