Mental Health Benefits of Chatting with Friends

15 March 2023

Even in these last days of winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can take its toll.  There are a number of remedies like a healthy diet, exercise, soaking up any sun that is around, and using lightbulbs that mimic the sun (those with a rating of 2700 to 3000 degrees Kelvin).  Don’t overlook the simple act of chatting with friends.  Not necessarily dumping woes on one another, but just a simple talk about ordinary things.

Friends can help prevent or at least moderate isolation and loneliness as well as provide needed human companionship.  Not only will they help you to reduce stress, but they are a support system toward healthy habits, provide a sense of belonging, and can actually improve self confidence.

Unfortunately as adults we often find it difficult to develop new friendships or even maintain some of the current relationships.  This is especially prevalent in lifestyle changes:

  • Relocation to a new city
  • Loss of a job
  • Death of spouse or partner or divorce
  • Change in status like marriage or empty nesting or caring for an older adult
  • Aging

Developing and maintaining friendships takes effort, but the results are worth it.  Understanding the need is one thing but the actual mechanics can be difficult.  Start by thinking about those who are currently in your circle of acquaintances.  Even someone you have dealt with on a casual basis.  Some ways are to:

  • Reconnecting with old friends, someone you worked with, former classmates
  • Introducing yourself to neighbors or co-workers you see but don’t necessarily interact with
  • Making time to connect

Look for opportunities rather than roadblocks. Go to places where you will meet like-minded individuals.  Try a new gym or a different class at your current exercise venue.  Check with your local library about book groups, classes, movie nights, etc.  Attend community events.  Volunteer.  Accept an invitation when offered.  Consider a faith-based study group.  Strike up a conversation with someone you run into frequently like at the park or grocery store.  Remember to develop multiple choices and not rely on a single strategy.

Joining an on-line group may help but researchers tell us that electronic relationships do not necessarily translate into closer friendships.  Always use good judgment about what information you share with others in initial relationships and especially online.

Some things to be aware of:

  • Start with a positive attitude and mindset
  • Understand it will take commitment and effort
  • Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone
  • Feed your curiosity
  • Consider a support network that can help with issues like self esteem or anxiety

Friendship is a social interaction where sometimes you are on the receiving side and sometimes you are giving.  First and foremost, be kind.  This is the core of most relationships.  Be a good listener.  Make yourself available.  Show that you can be trustworthy by keeping secrets, showing up on time, and keeping commitments.  Be in the moment.

Adult friendships can actually help you to live longer.  They are good for your heart, relieve stress, and keep you mentally alert.

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