After recently moving from the UK to the Netherlands, it made me realise how important and significant friendship had been in my life. I have had a lot of the same friends since school, and this was the first time I had moved somewhere new and not known anyone! 2020 has been a particularly difficult year for socialising. Therefore, we have all had to come up with new and creative ways to make friends and stay in contact with old ones. I can imagine there are many of us out there who have had a realisation the same or similar to mine! This inspired me to write a blog about friendship and its relationship with mental health.
We all know that friendship plays a big part in our lives. Friends can support us in times of need, provide non-judgmental advice, make us feel included, keep us motivated, help us not feel lonely, and be a welcome distraction from the stress or fears we experience in life. But what exactly is the impact of friendship? And why is it so important to maintain your friendships, especially during covid?
The importance of friendship has also been noticed by science. For example, researchers at the University of Virginia looked at the effect of having good friends as a teenager on their health as an adult. They found teenagers with good friends reported being happier, being better able to cope with stress while also having a higher self-esteem and doing better academically. Furthemore, these benefits seemed to last into adulthood with decreased reports of social anxiety and depression. Illustrating the importance of friendship on emotional and mental health, and indicating that the experience of bonding stays with us and has a lasting impact. Further studies have also shown that a lack of social support is a predictor for anxiety and depression.
These benefits have even been found to extend to our physical health. This was shown by a study that asked people to talk about difficult issues in their life. They found that, those who talked about it when accompanied by a supportive friend, had a lower pulse and blood pressure. Directly showing how friendship can affect us physically. Social support has even been linked to lower rates of heart disease!
Friendship and mental illness
If someone is suffering from a mental illness they may find it more difficult to spend time with friends. For example, feelings of anxiety can make social events seem threatening, and those with depression may struggle to find the motivation or energy to go to them. This can mean that friendships come under strain, especially when there is a lack of understanding. People often think that the friends don’t want to see them any more.
Nonetheless, it is important to try to maintain friendships with friends who are struggling with mental illness. Try to take an empathetic approach and validate their feelings. Be understanding of their limits and requirements during this period. Furthermore try to support them in the way they want. If you are not sure, sometimes it can help to ask them how they want support.. This also shows that you care. But don’t overburden yourself, remember you are only human too!
Friendschip during Covid-19
With a major impact on both our physical and mental health, the importance of friendship cannot be underestimated! Having a good friend shows us how important it is to feel appreciated and accepted. This sense of belonging gives us a sense of security and identity. Because the pandemic has a huge impact on our daily structure and our social life, it is important that we maintain our friendships! It is precisely in these difficult times that you must keep trying to connect with people, whether online or in the real world. In this blog, psychologist Renée Lepoutre gives tips on how to stay social online!
Are you feeling lonely or want help connecting with new or old friends? Don’t hesitate to reach out for help! Click here for more information about online help via NiceDay.