keep your friends close...and your good friends even closer.
In the last newsletter, we touched on the struggle of making and keeping friends in adult life. But #adulting (sorry) is so hectic, wouldn’t it just be easier to forgo the friendships and all the effort that comes with maintaining them? Why bother?
Platonic love is not something to be underestimated. While society and the media feed us the narrative that romantic love is the be-all and end-all of companionship, to shove platonic love to the back burner is to do ourselves a disservice. Friendships and social circles have consistently been shown to be predictors of emotional and physical well-being.
The post-pandemic world has exacerbated another less talked about epidemic: loneliness. The rate at which we’re alone, across age groups, has significantly increased along with a changing world. Work from home is the new norm, our main form of communication is via our cell phones or social media, and we had to be cautious of physical closeness for two years. If you feel like the distance between you and your friendships have grown, you’re not the only one.
Loneliness is defined as the perceived discrepancy between the relationships you want and the relationships you have. This feeling affects more than just our mental well-being — loneliness has been shown to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day when it comes to premature death. There have been many studies surrounding the negative effects of social isolation — older adults with a large circle of friends have been shown to be less likely to die earlier than those with few friends, noting that family relationships had no effect on survival rate. Large social circles have been correlated with a decreased risk of premature death even more so than exercise and diet have! Feeling isolated has also been shown to increase the risk of depression, anxiety, heart disease, stroke and dementia, so hold your friends a little tighter.
Okay, enough dark stuff…friendship is about more than just avoiding the negatives. Having a large social circle means being in touch with many different kinds of people and interacting with people with different lived experiences than us. Mingling with different people brings out different sides of ourselves and helps solidify a more well-rounded sense of identity. Even something as simple to talking to your fellow workout class regular about how the class was or joking with your barista can give us a sense of belonging and enhance different facets of our identity. Friendships also help us regulate stress in our lives — one of the best ways to calm ourselves down and get a little serotonin boost is to spend time with someone we feel securely attached to and able to be ourselves around.
So don’t underestimate the power of platonic love — the spark can be just as real as romantic love and have a serious effect on making our emotional and physical health a
little lot less shiddy!