Everyone needs friends might seem like an obvious statement, but I think it’s more difficult than ever to actually have friends. According to recent research, about 22% of adults in the U.S. say they, “often or always feel lonely, feel they lack companionship, feel left out, or feel isolated from others.” (DIJulio, et. al., 2018). This equates to about one fifth of the population. As a counselor, this feels very troubling. In fact, one of the reasons I’m focusing on friendship this month is that I have seen a high percentage of adults struggling with loneliness in my office lately. I do think the Pandemic is a contributing factor, especially when strict self-quarantine measures were in place. But social media has contributed as well. While social media has allowed many of us to connect with friends and colleagues from our past, it does not mean we are creating deep relationships that so many of us crave in order to curb loneliness.
Why we need friends:
I think there are several reasons that we need friendships and here are a few:
Friends offer community
I believe woven deep into our nature as humans, we were created for community. Many of the books that I have read on relationships suggest that when married couples fight, their greatest fear is being left by the other person because of this deep need to be cared for by another human.
Friends offer support and advice
There have been so many times that I have needed to process something out loud and I have a few good friends that I can do this with. As much as it annoys me sometimes, I’m an external processor, meaning I have to talk through my struggles and only then am I able to solve my problem. Sometimes I have to do this with 2-3 people. And while this wears me out sometimes, I know that this is the process I personally have to go through. I’m so thankful for my friends who are willing to listen and offer advice! Recently, I’ve been especially grateful to some of my friends who have been slightly older who have offered some wise parenting advice.
Friends provide a good distraction
My husband is way more extroverted than I am and I’m so grateful. There were several times just this past summer that he got me out of my comfort zone and made me interact with people I didn’t know very well. By the end of the evening I was so thankful that he encouraged me to socialize with people I didn’t know very well. It was a welcome distraction this summer when travel was limited, and groups had to be small.
My husband can’t be my only friend
While we’re on the subject of partners or spouses, my husband is my best friend and my favorite person to hang out with, but he can’t take the place of my best female friend. My female friend can offer advice and insight in a different way than my husband can, and I think I do the same for her. I often encourage people, even married people, to find a good friend of the same sex. In my experience, when the focus gets shifted to your spouse to meet all of your emotional needs, it puts a huge strain on the relationship. As much as my husband loves me, he doesn’t want to get pedicures with me, he’s not all that interested in going to bookstores or craft stores with me. A good friend can do these things with me and we have a blast while we do!
Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) struggle with friendships because they often overthink interactions that they’ve had with friends. This can lead to a lot of anxiety and perfectionism even in friendships. You can read more about this here. It’s also important for you to help your Highly Sensitive Kid navigate friendships in a way that helps them thrive by not overthinking their interactions too much, not being easily offended by others and encouraging them to share their wants/needs with their friends.
I hope this helps you find the answer to questions you may have why friendships are important to our mental health. If you’re still feeling uneasy about this process, please feel
free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email email@example.com. I’d be
happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you
are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you
can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.
DIJulio, B., Hamel, L., Muñana, C., Brodie, M. (2018, August 30). Loneliness and Social Isolation in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan: An International Survey. Kff.org. https://www.kff.org/report-section/loneliness-and-social-isolation-in-the-united-states-the-united-kingdom-and-japan-an-international-survey-section-1/