Are you satisfied with your friendships?
Do you ever feel lonely?
What strategies do you have to fill your need for intimacy and belonging?
What challenges do you encounter most when it comes to developing or deepening friendships?
What do you want your friendships to look like?
What would it feel like to have a sense of security regarding belonging and companionship?
In this section, explore a topic that we sometimes overlook as adults, but is instrumental to our well-being, happiness, and meaning: friendship. Discover aspects that can help develop deep and meaningful connections, strategies for meeting new friends, and exercises that get you out into the world socializing.
In this section…
- Study the origins and scientific benefits of friendship.
- Bust myths about friendship.
- Brush up on social skills and learn the science behind first impressions
- Look inward and see how your experiences and beliefs shape the kind of friend you are.
- Reflect on your need for intimacy and belonging.
- Categorize the types of friends and quality of connections in your life.
- Learn strategies for nurturing existing relationships
- Get ideas for making new friends.
- Explore what community means to you and how to go about finding it.
Measure the aspects of friendship in your life!
There are several places/ways throughout the friendship section to assess friendship in your life. You can do these quizzes and exercises as you read through, or find them right here.
The Assessment Center
First and foremost, you can measure Friendship as a factor of well-being, in great detail, and compare it together with other factors using our Assessment Center.
The Friendship Inventory
This printout exercise gives you a survey, or bird’s-eye-view, of your friendship landscape along a few different spectrums, like intimacy, support, and play.
Use this worksheet to see what roles are filled in each of your friendships, and how that’s changed over time.
Do You Think Making Friends Is Easy?
Do you think it’s complicated? Essential? A waste of time?
Chances are, as an adult, you have spent some time with the idea of friendship. But how much do you really know about friendship as an aspect in your life and how much it affects your health, happiness, and overall life purpose?
You may be thinking about friendship all wrong.
- You may think success and purpose drive happiness, however, research shows relationships make up 70% of personal happiness.1,2
- You may think the friends you made in high school or college are with you for life, but we lose half our friends every seven years3 and in your lifetime, you will have approximately 396 friendships.4
- You may think people now have more friends than ever since connecting virtually is easier than ever, however research supports that social networks are actually shrinking overall. A 2013 meta-analysis by researchers in Germany concluded that friendship networks have been shrinking for the past 35 years. It found, on average, people studied in the 80’s had about 4 more friends than people studied in the early 2000’s.5
- You may think DNA has nothing to do with the friends you choose, but friends tend to have similar genetic makeup6, and our brains often decide who we like or don’t like before we even talk to someone new.
- You may think kids don’t understand the complexities of friendship, but Babies as young as 9 months old can understand friendships7, so it is a skill we have all been working on since a young age.
- You may think since you have been making friends since childhood that you should be good at it by now, but research shows people all over the world are lonely, and life is more complex than just making friends.
“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.” – Tony Robbins
What Is Friendship?
a state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people. In all cultures, friendships are important relationships throughout a person’s life span.8
Friendship is one of those words we have all known since childhood, and we have all experienced in some way, yet asking five strangers to write a definition may yield five very different results. In this section, explore different ways to define friendship (and community) and examine how both show up in your life.
“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” – Edna Buchanon
“Love and friendship does change us, and can elevate us toward our highest potential.” – Kahlil Gibran
Friends are there on the day to day:
“Because we are all over the country, my three closest friends (Miranda, Rachel, and Johlandi) and I keep in touch via group texting. We share daily struggles, complaints, triumphs, and, most of all, laughs. These special ladies respond nonjudgmentally to whatever I tell them, allowing me to be as vulnerable as I please. Conversely, it’s a blessing to help them through their difficult times. Having such receptive friends has taught me that life is more fun and meaningful when I share myself with others.”
– Lauren Young, Rockingham, Virginia.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey
Friendship is Good For You!
The effects friendship can have on our health may be surprising. Check out the infographic below.
*click to see the full version
“Like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself, friendship has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis
Friends can really be there for you in the toughest times:
When single mother of four, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, she asked her best friend Laura to take care of her children after she was gone. After Elizabeth died, Laura kept her promise and adopted Elizabeth’s four daughters into her family.
In a heartwarming Thai advertisement, friends show up to see a friend in the hospital after an accident.
A video by TIME reports on a new study that shows friends may be more important than family.
Family ties and friendships have similar health benefits, but the study found in older years, the benefits are tied only to friendship rather than family relationships since friendships are chosen and remain over time rather than an obligation.
“A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth” – Charles Darwin
The alternative is loneliness.
It is often easy to see how loneliness affects your mental health. But did you know loneliness affects other aspects of your life, including your physical health?
Loneliness by Kurzgesagt
Everybody feels lonely sometimes. But only a few of us are aware of how important this feeling was for our ancestors – and that our modern world can turn it into something that really hurts us. Why do we feel this way and what can we do about it?
Here are the facts:
- People with large social networks live longer than those with low social interaction.9
- Loneliness is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day and twice as bad for you as obesity.9
- Loneliness can lead to high blood pressure, sleep issues, a decrease in immune system defenses, and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.10
- Loneliness can affect everyone (See map below) — at least 1 in 5 adults in the UK and USA say they always or often feel lonely.
Loneliness is a natural reaction to needs like connection and intimacy not being met. Similar to hunger. In small doses, it is a helpful cue that we need more social interaction. Long term, it can affect mental and physical health and contribute to more isolation.
“The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence. When we examine the moments, acts, and statements of all kinds of people — not only the grief and ecstasy of the greatest poets, but also the huge unhappiness of the average soul…we find, I think, that they are all suffering from the same thing. The final cause of their complaint is loneliness.”
– Thomas Wolfe, God’s Lonely Man
Studying Friendship Can Help Strengthen the Quality of All Your Relationships
“But I’m not lonely…I have tons of friends.”
Whether you know you want to work on friendship or if you find yourself saying something like the line above, know that friendship is not pass or fail…
Quality, depth, and impact of friendships can always be worked on and improved.
Imagine you have a greenhouse. You know the point of having a greenhouse is to grow plants. If your greenhouse is empty, you may plan a trip to a nursery or garden center to find some new plants. If your greenhouse is full and thriving, leaving it unattended wouldn’t work out well in the end. We don’t fill our greenhouses and then say “well, I have tons of plants now so my job is done!” Getting the plants is only the first step. Then there is daily watering, trimming, making sure they are getting enough light, which is different for each plant!
When you look around your friendship greenhouse, are you nurturing the plants that need care?
In this section, we will not only look at how to make friends, but also how to nurture existing friendships and gain insight into why your friendships may not be as fulfilling as they could be.
“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a loaf of bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.” – Shel Silverstein
Friendship Soup | The Ned Shows Video Lesson
Kids explain the “ingredients” that go into friendship and ask the question:
What ingredients have you been putting in your friendship Soup?
Guinness – Friendship | Commercial
An inspiring look into friendship and how actions can make a huge difference.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Kitbull | Pixar SparkShorts
An unlikely connection sparks between two creatures: a fiercely independent stray kitten and a pit bull. Together, they experience friendship for the first time.
FRIENDSHIP | A Short Film
A film highlighting the realities of 21st century friendship. Wait for the twist at the end!
Bunny New Girl | Short Film
A new student struggles to make friends at school because she is different, until another student shows her empathy.
Rabbit and Deer | Péter Vácz
A cute depiction of the friendship of a rabbit and a deer and how they overcome the obstacles between them.
Oprah and Gayle Go on a Road Trip | Full Episode
Oprah and Gayle: a famous lifelong friendship whose connection has lasted through it all. Watch them as they embark on a road trip full of memories, laughs, and bonding.
New Boy | Oscar® Nominated Short Film
A young African boy begins school in Ireland and discovers the meaning of being the new kid.
- Niven, D. (2009). Friendship Beats Money. The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It (pp. 21-22). New York, NY: HarperCollins e-books.
- Murray, C, and M. J. Peacock. 1996. “A Model-Free Approach to the Study of Subjective Well-Being.” In Mental Health in Black America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
- Mollenhorst, G., Völker, B., & Flap, H. (2008). Social contexts and personal relationships: The effect of meeting opportunities on similarity for relationships of different strengths. Social Networks, 30(1), 60-68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2007.07.003
- Smith, L. (2010, March 31). What happened to wotsisname? He was one of 396 Friends. Retrieved February 07, 2021, from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/what-happened-to-wotsisname-he-was-one-of-396-friends-7zmw0dr85t9
- Wrzus, C., Hänel, M., Wagner, J., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Social network changes and life events across the life span: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 53–80. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028601
- Ducharme, J. (2018, January 12). Friends are more similar genetically than strangers. Time. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://time.com/5095903/genetic-similarities-friends-study/#:~:text=You%20may%20have%20more,the%20National%20Academy%20of%20Sciences.&text=Overall%2C%20the%20researchers%20found%20that,as%20the%20average%20married%20couple.
- Meyer, M., Chung, H., Debnath, R., Fox, N., & Woodward, A. L. (2021, August 12). Social context shapes neural processing of others’ actions in 9-month-old infants. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022096521001788.
- Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Friendship. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/friendship.
- Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316
- Adams, R. E., Santo, J. B., & Bukowski, W. M. (2011). The presence of a best friend buffers the effects of negative experiences. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1786–1791. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025401
- Hoffman, M. (2018, November 13). Japan struggles to keep loneliness at arm’s length. The Japan Times. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/10/national/media-national/japan-struggles-keep-loneliness-arms-length/#:~:text=It%20cites%20other%20OECD%20figures,the%20highest%20in%20the%20OECD.