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Most of us have families, right? But the majority of us also have friends as well. So what use are these friends to us and what is their value in our lives?

Even though we have families to rely on, the bonds we have with friends have special value. Although friendship may be a hard concept to grasp, science has shown that there’s great value in friendships. Here are three reasons why.

1 – Friends help you stay mentally healthy

When you’ve had a bad day, talking to your friends can pick you up again. This is even true for your mental health as a whole in the long run. Scientific research has proven that our social behaviour patterns are good for our physical and mental health. Even long before this, many other wise people have studied friendship too. More than 2000 years ago stoic philosophers like Seneca and Epictetus generated theories about friendship. Lengthy letters were written, and staggering stacks of books were amassed. And mind you, Microsoft Word wasn’t a commodity in ancient Greece.

They imagined that you can be friends on different levels, such as accidental friendships based on mutual benefit or pleasure, or friendships based on common virtues. Both have value. But especially the latter accounts for maintaining your mental and emotional health and even modern scientists like Umberson and Karazs Montez (2010) agree with that part about health. Even to the degree that friends keep you alive longer compared to people without friends! Mind-boggling, isn´t it?

So, how does having friends extend our lives? Well, according to the studies, people with friends encourage each other in living a healthy life, like exercising regularly, eating healthy, and taking our meds on time. Those habits obviously affect your physical health and keep you around a couple of years more, allowing you to have cocktails with friends, share Netflix accounts and make long lasting memories. Isn’t that awesome?

Of course we didn’t need the scholars to tell us this. We already felt that having friends around makes us feel good, didn’t we?

2 – So what makes friendships so unique?

What we find in friendship is something we don’t find anywhere else because the support, intimacy, emotional bond and the feeling of same-ness (being peers) are unique. Think about it, where would you be without your friends?

And as complex as friendships are, they lack certain complexities that other types of deep relationships may present. And still they can reach as deep as family bonds and love lives. To put it a tad formally, one can always choose to become friends and choose to let friends go, although the first may require some practise and the second you probably don’t do lightly. It therefore even has super special value, since people who keep choosing you as a friend, don’t have to. They choose – again and again – to be there for you and spend time with you, because they want to. How’s that for a relationship?

Needless to say, that hasn’t always been the case for amorous relationships and family ties. Especially in certain eras and cultures and considering how family bonds still can come with obligations. And considering how having children can put an end to carefree spending time together. Friendship has – once again – unique qualities. Like Greek poet Euripides wrote: “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives”.

3 – It’s a holistic thing

We all know body and mind are not two separate entities. That’s how Cohen and Sheldon (2004) – among others – came to understand that the purpose, meaning and sense of belonging that friends give us, eventually also result in a healthier life. Being loved or cared for reduces the impact of stress and fosters a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

This emotional support furthermore makes people feel better, which, in turn, reduces the risk of unhealthy behaviours and poor physical health. It’s all connected baby!

Feeling appreciative?

Now you know you’ll be happier and last longer because of your friends, do you want to let someone know you’re grateful? Download or start your Scheduled app to set up a modest message or set a reminder for a beautiful birthday card.

Arjan van Rooijen