‘A good friendship is a wonderful antidepressant’, says psychologist Janice Kiecolt Glaser. The first Sunday of August is celebrated as friendship day wherein we acknowledge and appreciate the bond we share with people who make us feel independent, help in times of difficulty and lend emotional support to us. Holt Lundstad also stated in his research that ‘true friendship can give us a sense of purpose and motivate us to take care of ourselves. This reminded Heena Shethia, Psychologist MPower, Cell Management, of a case which she shared as below,
Ankit (name changed) is 32 years old suffering from depression due to the death of his wife and his job loss during Covid-19. He distanced himself from everyone, didn’t attend prayer meetings or answer calls. One of his friends got concerned and felt something was wrong, so he visited him one day. At first, Ankit didn’t say much but as they dwelled into deeper conversation, he opened up and cried out. The friend gave him a warm hug, helped him open up and express himself and suggested seeking professional help.
Food is tasteless without spice and so is our life incomplete without healthy friendship. With the help of a friend, Ankit was able to cope with the loss of his wife and job by seeking professional help. This was a small instance of how healthy friendship and mental health are correlated. It also shows that real friendship can’t replace the virtual world.
Kelli Harding, MD mentioned in one of her interviews that as a medical doctor she would prescribe everyone healthy friendship. Talking to a friend itself works like meditation and helps us in healing faster. Healthy friendship promotes healthy life choices, resulting in healthy eating habits, regular exercise and prolonged happy life. A healthy friendship doesn’t need a group of friends. It can be one or five people we feel closely connected to because the quality of relation matters, not quantity.
Social media and mass media plays a significant role in the way we perceive others. We resonate a lot with the way they represent their content. It has its pros and cons but it depends on what choice we make. Down the line, our physical hugs have been replaced with virtual emojis. Overuse of social media had led to shrinking years-long friendships from our life but movies and shows like 3 Idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Kai Po Che, Dil Chahta Hai, Sholay, Rang De Basanti, etc. have shown us different shades of healthy and true friendship.
Heena further talks about how healthy friendship has a myriad of benefits on our mental wellbeing and some of them are:
1. Improved Quality Of Sleep
Having a friend to talk to towards the end of the day helps us sleep peacefully and have healthy sleep patterns and we feel fresh in the morning.
2. Sense Of Belonging
American Psychologist A. H. Maslow has stated in his theory of hierarchy of needs that we strive to feel accepted and connected by others. Our healthy friends never leave us out and support us throughout life.
3. Cope With Mental Trauma
Healthy friendship uplifts us by being empathetic during traumatic situations like loss of a loved one, loss of job, divorce, failure in exams, etc. They make grieving easier for us in such situations.
4. Increases Our Stamina
When we are surrounded by friends who are positive and give us unconditional support, our stamina to go through mental discomfort and stress increases. We handle such situations in a healthier way.
5. Releases Our Mental Load
Throughout the day, we have different roles and responsibilities which create a lot of mental load. Having a good friend helps us release this load by listening to us non-judgementally and sharing a cup of coffee or going on a long walk and spending quality time with us.
6. Enhance Our Self-Confidence
Healthy friends don’t give us false hope rather they make us aware of our strengths and weaknesses. They help us to have realistic goals and a better perspective towards life which improves our confidence and we perform better.
7. Higher Level Of Self-Awareness
People with anxiety and body image issues perceive themselves based on others opinions and views about them which makes the person feel distressed. A healthy friendship helps us evaluate ourselves and manage our emotions, actions and thoughts resulting in better self-awareness from within.
8. Healthy Biologically
Healthy friendships lower blood pressure, better hormone function, stronger immune system, better digestion, proper blood circulation and lower chances of heart failure or any serious health illness.
9. Motivates Us To Seek Therapy
A healthy friend encourages us to seek professional help when they observe our mental health declining and impacting our overall wellbeing.
In the current times of Covid, it is all the more important for us to have healthy friendships. Covid has created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety amongst us. We are stuck in an undesirable situation having no clue of when things will be normal. Due to the lockdowns, many are away from their families. In such a crisis, our friends help us by being there and providing socio-emotional support.
They make us feel less lonely and uplift us in such traumatic life-changing situations. Amid this pandemic, our physical meets have been limited due to social distancing but advanced technology has made it a lot easier to survive through these hard times. Through technology, cafe meets have become google meets and different social media platforms have played a vital role in keeping us connected with our close friends.
A healthy friend can be our life partner, workmates, childhood friends, college friends and someone with whom we share our hearts out and who keeps our mental health in good shape.
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