Friendships are good for your health but sometimes the pressures of juggling work, family life and other commitments can mean we end up neglecting these important relationships.
Today (July 30) is International Friendship Day, a date in the calendar designed to celebrate the importance of friendships and socialising. Studies have found that strong friendships can actually help us to live longer as well as improving our general quality of life.
Researchers from Michigan State University studied people from 100 different countries and discovered that those with good friendships considered themselves to be happier and healthier than those without close friends.
But how can we make sure we don’t take our best friends for granted? Here are our top tips for maintaining friendships:
Life can be hectic and many friendships fall by the wayside simply because people become too busy to meet up regularly. Make a conscious effort to set aside time for your good friends. It doesn’t really matter what you do so long as you do it together. Face to face conversations are much more rewarding than simply keeping track of each other’s lives through social media.
If you can’t afford trips away, nights out or meals in a restaurant on a regular basis, arrange to spend time at each other’s homes instead. Perhaps you could take a leaf out of Joey and Chandler’s book and relax in your La-Z-Boy recliners together? That famous fictional friendship from the US sitcom Friends showed that sometimes all you need to do is enjoy each other’s company.
If you and your best friends live a long way from each other, use Facetime or Skype to talk to each other rather than just sending messages. Seeing each other’s faces when you talk will help the conversations flow more naturally and help you feel like you are together.
For a friendship to last and endure all the things life will throw at you, you need to be honest with each other. Value and listen to each other’s opinions even when you don’t agree with them and make a pledge to always be straight with each other. Sometimes this may mean you need to put your ego to one side if they tell you some uncomfortable home truths. Opening up to each other will help you develop a deeper and longer lasting friendship based on trust and respect. However, being honest with each other shouldn’t mean you say cruel or judgmental things – if something isn’t kind, helpful or constructive then keep it to yourself.
Everyone sometimes does or says something they regret. Many friendships end because of petty arguments or awkward situations. If you do something you’re not proud of, admit to it and say sorry even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to be the one who reaches out and apologises first. An apology will often save a good friendship so set aside any stubbornness and put your relationship with each other first. Even if you believe it is your friend who is in the wrong, offer an olive branch and talk to each other. Admit the areas you may have been at fault and you will probably find they are then more willing to apologise for their part in the disagreement.
We often become friends with someone because we have something in common. You may have gone to school or university together, been work colleagues, have children the same age or shared a hobby. Sometimes when your life moves on from the thing that introduced you, your friendship can suffer. One way to avoid this is to make sure you show an interest in your friend’s life even if it is now very different to your own. Listen to their problems, ask them about their passions and try to take their circumstances into account when arranging things with them. For example, if your friend is a new parent but you are childfree, look at practical ways you can help and understand that they may have less time to meet up than before.