You can call them your squad, crew, homies, or whatever you want; your friends will always have your back. You probably think that you already know why friends are important, but some of the hidden benefits of friendship will shock you. They can give you direction when you’re lost, help you up when you’re feeling down, and lend you an ear when you need to vent. And that’s just the start! But, if all of your friends come from the same background or all look alike, then you might be leaving valuable opportunities on the table. Building friendships with people from all walks of life can help enrich your world, opening up tons of opportunities and making you into a more well-rounded human being. Here are the valuable reasons why friends are important, and how adding diversity to your group can improve your life.
Why Having Friends Is So Important
1. They sharpen your mind. Young people with close friendships can usually handle stress better than loners. They’re also happier, have a higher sense of individuality, and tend to do better in school. Your close friends can help you keep your mind engaged through frequent casual conversations and from challenges they might throw your way. So, the next time you jokingly call your friend dumb, remember that they’re boosting your brainpower. As if that’s not enough, that’s just the first reason why friends are important.
2. They keep you fit and healthy. A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine showed that young people who talked with researchers about difficult issues they were experiencing had lower blood pressure and pulse when they brought a friend with them. Another study found that people with a strong network of friends were more likely to exercise regularly, quit smoking, and eat fruits and veggies. If that all sounds too good to be true, think about the activities you do with friends that you wouldn’t have done alone. Would you have played tag alone as a kid, or rode bikes up and down the street without your friends to chase?
3. They improve your quality of life. When you have the sense of belonging that goes hand-in-hand with having a close group of friends, your life becomes immeasurably better. Think about how much happier you are when you’re sharing a meal with your friends, joking about current events, and sharing your thoughts and opinions. Being around people you like boosts your quality of life even if they aren’t your BFFs. That dude at the gym who spots you or that girl who recommends great podcasts in class still brighten your day, and that can lead to your overall happiness.
4. They’ve got your back. People who have experienced traumas like their parents’ divorce, an illness in their family, or the loss of a beloved pet understand why friends are important. Their support can mean the world to someone grieving. And, that support extends to less serious issues, too. If you bomb a test that you thought you should have aced, you can always vent your frustrations to a friend. Or, you can ask them to help you study next time. Of course, you would do anything for your friends, and your relationship is built on that care.
5. They’re your hype man (or woman). Unlike when your grandma pinches your cheek and says that you’re the cutest person in the world, when your friends compliment you, you believe them. Friends help friends build poise and give us a shot in the arm when it’s needed. They also push one another to break out of their comfort zones, something that helps build confidence. Rapper Royce da 5’9” describes the importance of having a hype man. He writes, “A lot of my verses be so constant with the flow I’d need somebody to help me.” In other words, sometimes you just need someone to step in, help you catch your breath, and then get back to work–someone to lean on when you need a little extra help. (Edwards, 2009).
Why Diversity Matters In Friendships
1. It shatters invisible barriers. Have you ever looked at a close group of people, wanting to be a part of their club, but felt as if there was some sort of code to their friendship that you just couldn’t crack? That has happened to everybody at some point. That “code” is a barrier to entry. Every friend group communicates a barrier to the outside world, whether members of that group know about it or not. It can seem inaccessible to outsiders who might not share the same experiences. If all of your friends are members of the same religion or ethnicity, you have a shared history that someone outside of your group might not be familiar with. That’s a difficult thing to overcome. They may not have the tools they need to crack your specific code. When you offer a new person friendship, you are not only allowing them to learn about your history, but you also gain access to theirs, breaking down those invisible barriers.
2. You get to share brand-new experiences. They say that travel opens the mind. It makes sense. When you visit new places, you meet people who live their lives in a manner completely different from yours. The food they eat, the way they travel, the clothes they wear; when you see where they’re coming from, you get to observe the differences between their culture and your own. You become less critical of things you didn’t understand before, and you bring that open-mindedness home with you. For all of those same reasons, that’s why friends are important. Your group of diverse friends can share food, culture, languages, jokes, lifestyles, and family traditions that you have never seen before, opening up your mind without having to fly 16 hours to experience them.
3. If you only ask one kind of person, you’re only going to get one kind of answer. The people in our lives teach us how to love, laugh, and treat people. Our friends teach us how to manage relationships and how to interact with peers or dates or bosses. A more diverse group of friends will pull experiences from their varied lives to give you more skills and knowledge than you would have if all of your friendships were uniform. For example, suppose all of your friends are single and you need relationship advice. You would get different answers if all of your friends were happily married with children or in long-term relationships. Expand your friend group and you’ll get better counseling when you need help.
Tips For Maintaining Your Friendships
1. When something reminds you of them, share it right away. Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and thought, I need to recommend this to so-and-so? Well, don’t wait. Let them know right away. If you’re in the store and see a gag gift that would make your funny friend laugh like crazy, spend the money and pick it up for them. The enjoyment you give your friends by providing them with something they’ll enjoy outweighs any monetary costs. It’s always nice to know that your friend went out of their way to share something with you, and it shows that you understand their tastes.
2. Let your friends know when you’re thinking of them. If you understand why friends are important, then you probably have great friends. Lucky you! Why don’t you tell them? When friends pop into your head, shoot them a text or drop them a DM. It doesn’t have to be anything poetic or gushy. A simple, Hey, I was walking to work and I wanted to say hi, will mean a lot to them. The world is a busy place, and taking a few seconds to simply say that you are thinking about someone special is enough to brighten anyone’s day.
3. Be realistic about your expectations. Overblown expectations don’t just happen in romantic relationships. Your boyfriend or girlfriend should be on the same page as you more often than not, and that’s why friends are important. They don’t have to be. Their different perspective will give you insight into other people’s minds. If you judge everybody from just your perspective alone, you might alienate your friends who don’t think the way you do. For example, just because your friends from childhood like to hug people goodbye, not everybody does. That’s totally okay, and you shouldn’t think that you’ve offended someone just because they didn’t hug you.
People shouldn’t expect the same things from everybody. That’s what happens when we diversify our friend group. Everybody is different, and you should be realistic about who they are.
Friendships Are For Learning
The best, most-impactful friendships are the ones that change you. The friends who see and accept you and then give you the tools you need to push yourself forward are the ones who have the most invested in your happiness. Surrounding yourself with people who have a different skin color, cultural background, or religion will give you better social skills and make you a more resilient person. When you break down the barriers holding you back, allowing people from other walks of life to get to know you, you’re spreading love and positivity in the world. If you want to live in a society of acceptance, then the most accessible place to start is with the people you spend time with. That’s why friends are important; your friends represent how you want the world to be.
- Do you have a diverse friend group?
- What tips from above do you think will help you make new friends?
Woolston, C. (2019, December 31). Health benefits of friendship. Retrieved from https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/emotional-health-17/psychology-and-mental-health-news-566/health-benefits-of-friendship-648397.html
Steinhilber, B. (2017, September 15). The health benefits of working out with a crowd. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-you-should-work-out-crowd-ncna798936
Edwards, P. A. (2009). How to rap. Chicago Review Press, 304.
Turner, R. (1981). Social support as a contingency in psychological well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22(4), 357-367.