Best friends are the ones who make us laugh from that deep place in our souls. They’re our ride-or-die compadres and our solace in hard times. The benefits of having a best friend in your life are numerous, but not all friends are created equal. A healthy support network contains various levels of social connections. These social connections can include casual work acquaintances, family members, church groups, community organizations, and close friends, with each providing a different level of social support. They all have a place in your life. But having a best friend is infinitely more valuable. That relationship provides a level of intimacy and honesty that contributes to healthy self-esteem, increased physical health, and overall improved well-being. That’s only if your bestie is a good friend. Let’s take a look at what attributes are necessary for a healthy friendship and a few reasons why you need a good best friend!
Nurturing Your Closest Friendship With Adventures From Scratch
Before you can reap the benefits of having a best friend, you need to spend quality time together. That’s why we created our new adventure book solely focused on friendship! Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition highlights over 50 amazing adventures! Enjoy in-home crafts and weekend getaways that you can experience with your friend group. Just gather your besties, scratch off an adventure, and let the fun ensue!
What to Look For in a Great Friend
Whether you’re the life of the party with a huge social circle or a total introvert hell-bent on making it on your own, if you’re honest with yourself, there are times when you really need a trusted confidant to share life with. However, not just anyone will do. While there are scores of benefits to healthy friendships that we will get to later, an abusive or neglectful friendship can do equal amounts of damage to self-worth and, in some cases, even cause health problems due to the increase in stress. So, what should you look for in a healthy friendship? We obviously all have different preferences in our friends, but here are a few universal tenants to bear in mind.
Good friends listen well.
Your best friend should be someone who provides a listening ear, allowing you to vent and speak before offering solutions or judgment. In tough times, we often just need someone to sit in supportive silence with us. A healthy friend relationship provides a safe space for you to get it out.
They will encourage you.
A good best friend brings out the best in you. They encourage your passions and reinforce your self-worth by pointing out your talents and encouraging you to pursue your dreams.
Even if it’s hard, they tell the truth.
Honesty is integral in a best-friend relationship. You may have several close friends who just tend to agree and go along with you, but you need at least one friend who will tell you the hard truth when you’re off track. A best friend should be someone who loves you enough to confront you when you’re wrong, but it should be done out of love and a true desire to see you succeed, not out of malice or superiority.
Good friends help carry your burdens.
A good friend is willing to get in the muck with you. Life is dirty and difficult sometimes, and a true friend shows up in those moments, ready to offer emotional support. They don’t shy away from the difficult stuff. If need be, they’ll spend time outside their comfort zone, just for your benefit.
They will defend you.
Close friendships are based on mutual respect and love. If your best friend participates in gossip about you when you aren’t around or they refuse to defend you when others attack, this is a big red flag! It can break down your sense of belonging and cause immense pain.
They make you laugh.
Laughter is an important ingredient to overall health and well-being. A good best friend is someone who makes you laugh regularly! We aren’t saying you need to gravitate toward comedians or the life of the party. But generally, a best friend has inside jokes and a way about them that just makes you smile.
Good friends are trustworthy.
You should be able to tell your best friend anything and trust that it will not leave the circle… unless that bit of information is dangerous to you or to someone else. Is your friend repeatedly sharing intimate information about you with your friend group? Be careful about how intimate you get with them in the future.
They allow you to be yourself.
You shouldn’t feel the need to change yourself in any way when in the presence of your best friend. Your bestie should be one of the few people on earth that you can be 100% authentic with.
Good friends bring peace, not drama.
If you find that you have high blood pressure after every meet-up with a certain friend, check yourself. Time with your best friend should leave you feeling rejuvenated, not stressed out. Evaluate your friendship often. Does it bring encouragement, peace, and refreshment to your inner being? Or does it increase your stress level? If you find yourself feeling drained after every meeting, you’re probably dealing with a friendship that isn’t mutually beneficial.
A good friendship should be mutually beneficial.
Lastly, as we just hinted at, a strong friendship should be beneficial to both parties. If one side of the friendship is always in crisis and the other side is always on emotional support duty, that’s an unfair relationship. It might even be bordering on abusive. You’re looking for an equal exchange of ideas, support, and time.
The Benefits of Having a Best Friend
1. Decreases Social Isolation
Having a large number of friends does not equate to feeling accepted and known. Some of the loneliest people on earth are the life of the party. If you go home from a hangout feeling lonely, the social ties you have are not fulfilling your need for connectedness. Having just one best friend who shares the ins and outs of your life, in an authentic way, offers a sense of comfort and connectedness. We all need that. Having that one person who just gets you makes you feel valued. The feeling of loneliness just melts away.
2. Increases Your Sense of Purpose
A best friend who relies on you increases your sense of purpose. Remember that friendships should be mutually beneficial. And while you’re providing emotional support for your friend, you’re also meeting your desire to feel needed and consulted. Being someone’s best friend affords you the opportunity to encourage, care for, and help someone else through the difficulties of life.
3. Increases Self-Confidence
An encouraging best friend naturally increases your self-worth. You have a loved one who knows you inside and out, and that person thinks you are capable and of value. Having a few people in your life who reinforce your capabilities when you’re doubting yourself is invaluable to one’s self-esteem.
4. Supports Your Mental Health
When a person must wade through all their emotions and difficulties alone, it can lead to major mental stress, not to mention one-sided solutions. Having a stable best friend to bounce ideas off of and offer solid advice is a major relief. Not only do best friends help relieve stress and loneliness, which affect mental health, but they also offer different perspectives that can help you make better life decisions.
5. Maintains Physical Health
According to Mayo Clinic, adults who have strong social relationships don’t experience as many health problems as those who are isolated. A stable social network can help prevent depression, control high blood pressure, and even lead to a healthier weight. Most of these physical benefits occur due to the decreased stress levels experienced by people who feel socially accepted and loved.
6. Helps You Deal With Trauma
Whether it’s bringing ice cream after a breakup or sitting in silence as you mourn the death of a loved one, best friends see you at your worst, and they rise to the occasion. They offer emotional support, physical help, and a consistent presence in times of need.
7. May Keep You Out of Trouble
A wise best friend can actually help you stay out of trouble. Best friends are often the ones who encourage us to go to the gym, stop drinking so much, or get spiritually healthy. They love you, and they want what is best for you. So it’s natural they would encourage you to better yourself. You probably do the same for them.
8. Encourages Personal Development
A good friend encourages you to apply for that new position at work, ask that amazing guy out to dinner, or stick to those New Year’s resolutions. They provide accountability, support, and sometimes tough love that encourages you to develop as a person. Having a close friend also hones your listening ability, develops your sense of compassion and understanding, and encourages you to be more trustworthy and devoted as you seek to be a good friend.
9. Expands Your Perspective
Your best friend likely has a very different life than you in a lot of ways. You probably work in different jobs, have different histories, and definitely don’t agree on all things. Having someone with whom you are close enough to share ideas and who you respect enough to value their opinion can really change and expand your perspectives. We tend to view the world through the lens in which we were raised and the life experiences we have. Having a best friend that comes from a different cultural, religious, or environmental landscape helps us to expand our view of the world.
10. Encourages Loyalty
When someone has been there for you through thick and thin, most people will have a strong desire to respond in kind. Having a close friend produces an intense loyalty within your heart that makes you a better friend, and that concept of loyalty often overflows into other relationships as well.
How to Cultivate Healthy Friendships
1. Always be yourself.
Building friendships on falsities only leads to future disappointment. If you have to change your behavior, beliefs, or interests in order to spend time with a person, that’s not your people. A best friend is a person you can be totally yourself with.
2. Create healthy expectations.
Check your friendship expectations. There are seasons of life, especially during early adulthood when people are building careers, marriages, and families, when your friends may not be able to devote vast amounts of time to the friendship. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. It’s just a normal stage of life. Make sure you evaluate your expectations when looking to make new friends and be fair. A good friend should devote time to cultivating the relationship, but they might not be at your disposal every second of every day.
On the flip side, if a new friend seems to need your attention a little too much, that’s a red flag too. Attentive friends are great, but friends that rely on you for their every need are codependent, and that isn’t a relationship you want to nurture.
3. Keep your eyes open as you do your own thing.
The best way to find like-minded friends is to go about your business as usual, looking for people who are doing the same thing. While you’re at the gym, in your favorite bookstore, or hiking your favorite trail, introduce yourself to people who are doing the same. It’s likely you will at least have common interests, even if they don’t lead to a close friendship. Don’t be afraid to approach people as you go about your daily life.
4. Hold up your end of the bargain.
Friendships are a mutual thing, so if you’re looking for companionship, be sure you’re ready to put in the time and effort of cultivating a strong relationship. You want to make sure that you’re emotionally available, have time to devote to your new friend, and are interested in pursuing a friendship before you make any commitments.
5. Be picky.
While we have touted the benefits of healthy friendships, unhealthy ones are not worth the effort. It’s perfectly healthy to have a large and varied social network, but be selective about who you let into the intimate zone. Most people only have one or two friends who are truly intimate companions. Choose wisely.
6. It won’t always work.
Knowing when to let a friendship go is a difficult task. However, it might be time to cut ties if you notice some red flags. Is the relationship causing you added stress or drama? Are there signs of codependence? Is your friend consistently untrustworthy, negligent, or negative? If yes, they might not be the best friend you’re looking for. They can still be an acquaintance, but don’t pour your heart and soul into a relationship that doesn’t foster peace and bring you some happiness. Follow your gut and get a second opinion from a trusted loved one. If something doesn’t feel right, let it go.
Let’s close on a positive truth. You have a unique set of talents, gifts, and experiences that make you a valuable asset in the lives of others. You deserve a friend group that appreciates you for who you are. They should notice your gifts and encourage you to be the best version of yourself. This means telling you the truth when you’re acting a little crazy! But they’ll also want to be by your side in difficult situations and be respectful of your boundaries. Seek out those people! It’s a rare thing to find a truly good friend, so don’t be disappointed if you haven’t found your person yet. You’ll find them if you keep your eyes peeled. Be open to opportunities and be okay with being yourself!
Do you have an awesome best friend? What do you think the benefits of having a best friend are? Tell us how you met in the comments, and give us your favorite tip for creating and maintaining healthy friendships.
If you’re looking to focus on strengthening your friendships this year, take a few tips from “Friendship Goals for the New Year.” It’s filled with fun ideas to help you cultivate better friendships this year!
If you’re part of a dynamic duo, double dates can be a great way to meet new friends. Check out “The Ultimate List of Double Date Ideas” to find your next adventure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sometimes, when you have a best friend, you just know. A truly great friend is lovingly honest, dependable even in hard times, and someone who makes you feel comfortable and accepted.
Cultivating lasting friendships takes effort. Devote time for adventures with your bestie, make sure you’re available in their time of need, and foster a relationship based on trust and honesty.