Numerous studies, relationship experts and even ancient philosophers have all come to the same conclusion: strong social ties are one of the keys to happiness. And, friendships may also be the best medicine for our physical and mental health. A 2005 Australian study found that strong social networks are also likely to increase longevity.
So, how can we ensure healthy friendships?
Make the effort to maintain in-person connections
While social media makes it easy to stay connected online, it can’t replace an in-person connection. Make the effort to find the time for lunch dates, attending a party, going to the movies together or anything else you both enjoy doing. Show up, in person, when your friend needs you, during the good times as well as the bad.
Always be honest
Friendships built on falsehoods result in superficial relationships that are likely to fade over time. Real friendships are built with honesty. Having a friend who is willing to tell your the truth, and one that you can open up to, is the only way to achieve a solid, long lasting friendship. If something is bothering you about your friendship, talking about it in an honest and straightforward way can help to avoid misunderstandings – and, chances are, your friend will appreciate and respect your truthfulness.
Maintain a healthy distance
While it’s important to keep in touch regularly, you also need space to grow, which means not being too clingy, overprotective, or expecting them to be there for you 24/7. Respect their privacy and give each other a healthy amount of space occasionally to allow the friendship to grow.
Apologize for mistakes
The closer we are too someone, the easier it becomes to say something that is hurtful. Remember that no one is perfect, but when we make a mistake it’s important to repair it. While honesty is essential, that doesn’t mean being cruel. Apologize if you’ve inadvertently done so, and then try and find a balance where you can say what you need to say without being judgemental, or parental.
Don’t expect too much
Try not to take it too personally if your friend is late, cancels plans at the minute or doesn’t answer an email as quickly as you’d like. It’s easy to view people’s action as a reflection of their character, or mistakenly assume they just don’t care, but your friend might just be overwhelmed with responsibilities at home or at work. Don’t be quick to pick them apart, accept that they are human and that they will make mistakes, just like you will.