February is International Friendship month – a time to celebrate the spirit of friendship and companionship. Even as a self-described introvert who so values her alone time, I value my time with friends. And, it turns out, friendships are good for my health. I’ve come to realize I would not be as happy in life it was not for my best friend who supports me through all my ups and downs and always knows exactly what I need in the moment.
Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:
— Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
— Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
— Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
— Help you cope with difficult life circumstances
— Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits
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.
To build strong friendships:
— Be kind. This very basic concept remains the core of successful relationships. Every act of kindness and every expression of gratitude creates stronger bonds.
— Be a good listener. Ask what’s going on in your friends’ lives. Be there for the good and the bad. Demonstrate excitement and enthusiasm by asking questions and showing interest. When friends share details of hard times or difficult experiences, be empathetic, but don’t give advice unless your friends ask for it.
— Open up. Build intimacy with your friends by opening up about yourself. Sharing personal experiences and concerns shows that your friend holds a special place in your life, and it may deepen your connection.
— Be trust-worthy. Being responsible, reliable and dependable is key to forming strong friendships. Follow through on commitments you’ve made to your friends. Make time for them by being there when they need you. And, perhaps most importantly, when your friends share confidential information, keep it private.
— Be available. Building a close friendship takes time — together. Make an effort to see friends regularly, and to check in with them in between meet ups. Even long-distance friendships can be maintained through texts, phone calls, and video chats.
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