With the increase of virtual friendship networks, like Facebook, there’s been a huge change in how we communicate with friends; on the plus side we can stay in touch better than ever before; on the downside we can mass post or email our news to everyone (and their amusing piano playing cat), and the personal connection and the true meaning and value of connecting ‘WITH’ someone is lost as we replace it with connecting ‘AT’ them. Real friendships aren’t maintained simply by the frequency of connection, which these networks provide, they also require the personal element, and time spent on them. So take time to make sure you’re actually spending time BEING with your friends, rather than just virtually waving in their general direction from the distance.
Friends and health
It turns out that friendships are not only good for us they are essential. Research from 2011 shows happiness is an excellent predictor of longevity – on average a happy person will live an extra 10 years compared to their unhappy colleagues; and loneliness is an equally good predictor of lower happiness, longevity and health. One key part brain, the amygdala in the Limbic system, is directly affected by our friendship networks – the more people we know the larger it is. This is important as a well functioning Limbic system is related to emotional wellbeing, being able to make good decisions about what to get stressed or chilled out about, the appropriate release of pleasure and stress hormones and the avoidance of impulsive behaviours and addictions.
Yet friendships, although essential for our wellbeing, can be one of the most complex things to manage.
The problems and solutions for friendship issues
Friendships can come and go throughout life – it’s quite natural that as time goes by people change their interests, goals and values and so naturally some friendships wane whilst new ones are bought in that fit better with who you are now. This is all part of the natural and healthy process of change and development that goes on throughout life. But they can be cut short prematurely, and that’s usually caused by poor communication, often where people have decided to believe their interpretation of a situation, or what other people have said gossip and hearsay.
These situations can usually be easily be resolved by simply finding a way to sit down and discuss reasonably what’s been going; but sometimes you’ll need to be a master of calmness and communication to get them to sit down and do this, as people can be so convinced of the truth of their perspectives that they are just not interested in discussing it further.
However, not every friendship is worth saving; first check with yourself that you’re not pouring good time and effort into keeping a relationship alive that’s either not good for you or one-sided; and secondly make sure you’re being the kind of friend you wish others to be to you – being this way means you’ll attract and develop the kind of friendships that are truly valuable and life-enhancing.