Why Good Friends Make You Happy
People with strong friendships can reap big well-being, happiness rewards
The gravitational pull of individual friendships can have an enormous cumulative effect on the quality of our lives. With growing numbers of people living alone, either by choice or circumstance, friendships can occupy the emotional space that other people fill with spouses or significant others. Friends can link us to broader social networks and help enrich our lives. At the end of the day, a friend can be the emotional oasis that makes all the difference.
"Friends are what make us uniquely human," says
After a career studying different types of relationships and their impact on well-being and health,
Solid friendships provide needed validation that a person is valuable and of interest to other people. "Relationships help people feel that they're worthy, that they are capable, that they can set goals and accomplish them, and that they can control their life," says
A person's inner circle usually includes close family members and friends who are thought of as family.
Close friendships display strong support and affection, Blieszner says. A close friend fills an invaluable role as a confidant, someone who listens and pays attention to you, is willing to help you, and has shared interests. There is give-and-take and often a balance that doesn't put too much weight on one party.
Women, it turns out, are often better friends to other women and also to men. Women also engage directly in shared activities and derive value by enjoying their friends' experiences. Men, by comparison, do not interact as much and tend to base enjoyment of sporting events and other shared activities on their own experiences. "Men confide in women, and women confide in women," Blieszner explains, "so I think women are perceived as better listeners." She borrows an observation from
Given the ability of friends to make you happier or sadder, Fowler says, it might be tempting to cull your network of friends to eliminate those who have a negative influence on you. "You might say, well, 'I'll just get rid of all my friends who aren't perfect,' and that's absolutely the wrong advice," he says. According to his research, dropping a bad friend actually raises the risk that your happiness will decline.
"Every friend makes you healthier; every friend makes you happier," Fowler says. "We're not talking about your 500th friend on
Antonucci has a different view. Human relationships have negative as well as positive consequences, and a friendship that has turned toxic is not worth keeping. "Nobody can drive you quite so crazy as someone who is near and important to you," she says. "One of the things people have to do is to learn when to give up on a relationship and how to do it."
The good news about friendships is that they get better with age, says
The number and diversity of friendships tend to naturally decline in later years, and can lead to isolation and adverse effects on health and happiness. Psychologist
Developing and maintaining friendships requires continuous attention. "Give-and-take is important," Blieszner says. Other elements of solid friendships, she notes, include paying attention to what's going on in a friend's life, seeking out and participating in shared interests and activities, and being able to confide deeply to a friend.
"People should learn to value relationships," Antonucci concludes. "They will make them happier. And with longer life expectancies, they really have to think about the kind of life they want to lead ... I think we underestimate how important it is in our lives to have relationships."
- How to Deal With Jealousy
- 10 Things to You Should Never, Ever Say to a Woman
- Families Are Changing, But Still Key to Happiness
- How to Live Alone Without Being Lonely
- How to Be Happy -- Despite Parenthood
- Religion Makes People Happier -- But Why?
- Why Good Friends Make You Happy
- Why Marriage Makes People Happy
- How to Protect Yourself from Bad Break-Ups
- How to Find Happiness on Social Networks
- Make Time for Romance!
- The Bad Breakup Recovery Plan
- Love Lessons From Teen Movies of the 1980s
- What to Say to Women
- 5 Ways Your Negative Friends Can Drag You Down
- How to (Finally!) Agree About Money
- How to Maintain Friendships After College
- How to Fight
- Toss out Toxic Relationships
- Make the Honeymoon Period Last
- Friending Your Frenemy
- Addition by Subtraction: Don't Let Bad Friends Drag You Down
- Make Your Relationships Make You Smile
- Keep Your Relationship Exciting
- The Grudge Report
- How to Stop Being Late
- Dealing With the Dreaded Friendship Triangle
Copyright © 2012 U.S. News & World Report