For how important friendships are, we give them very little credit when it comes to our overall health and wellbeing. Whilst we know how valuable it is to have platonic support and deep connection, friendship seems to be one of the first aspects of our lives to fall by the wayside. Especially when the going gets tough and we default to … wait for it… the text: ah, there aren’t enough hours in the week – cancel wine night. I’m rundown and drained - definitely don’t have the energy to meet for coffee this week. I’m in a weird space and feeling kind of… lonely? I’ll just stay holed up alone until I feel better.
The truth is, it might be too easy to feel like we’re maintaining our friendships when “reaching out” is just a double tap away. Whilst social media is a great way to be in contact, it’s an especially awful tool to stay connected. As in actually connected. Whilst it feels great (hellooo dopamine) to hear the ping ping ping of likes coming in on a new post, the sense of companionship is short-lived. It can be hard to recognise you’re short on friendship when it’s easy to be popular and fulfil social obligations online.
But in reality, for all the hours of meme sharing and “I have 10 minutes before I have to leave for work” texting – very little “friendshipping” is actually happening. And we NEED it to be happening. In fact, our health depends on it. According to Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad, when we find ourselves lacking these authentic friendships, we expose ourselves to the same mortality risk as if we were smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
So how do we find, strengthen and maintain these life-giving friendships?
- Look out for them
You know how you’ve never noticed yellow hatchbacks on the road? And then your mom gets a little yellow-hatchback and you’re amazed by how many you see on a daily basis? Friends can be like that too. We never run out of opportunities to make new friends – in fact, Kate Leaver in her book The Friendship Cure says that we let chances to make friends pass us by every day. When you take into consideration exactly how important friendship is and how you could do with more of it, your chatty neighbour becomes more of a treat than a nuisance.
- Spice up your love life
For all the articles we’ve stumbled upon telling us how to take care of our romantic interests, very few have concerned themselves with how to maintain our friendships. This is strange considering the frequency with which romantic interests change and the relative stability of friendships throughout our lives.
So, why not treat your friendships with the same care as your partnerships? Your romantic relationship wouldn’t be fulfilling if all you did was text about 90 Day Fiancé episodes – so why should your friendships suffer the same? Spice up your platonic-love-life by finding new ways to reconnect with old friendship-flames – like - go on a damn date! Or - write a letter proclaiming your love, send them flowers, send them a HALO ring why dontcha - take a moment to express a genuine “thank you for always being there for me”. Your friends have their own lives too but they’ll appreciate every step of the extra-mile you go for them.
- Log out
Whilst it is possible to maintain fulfilling and genuine connections with friends online, it’s not as simple as tagging them in a friendship quote or commenting a flame emoji under a new picture.
Treat your activities online and your duty towards your friends as completely separate things. Set a goal for how often you’d like to connect with a friend face to face and know that by just forwarding this article he/she might like, will probably land better if it’s followed up with some good ol’ quality time.
Not only are friendships vital for our health, they’re central to our happiness. So much so that good friendships are a better indicator of both health and happiness than relationships with relatives. You want to improve your life? Put the Yoga Mat down just for a day, and invest in a friend. You’ll both live longer for it!
(now, about those HALO rings you were thinking of shipping: HALO silicone rings are the friendship-bracelets of the future. Built for life-long connections and years upon years of love, nothing quite says “I get you” than a HALO. Find your HALO now.