We all need a good friend in our lives—someone that isn’t family, that isn’t a lover, that we simply truly enjoy being around and enjoys being around us. But who that person is can have more of an effect on your health than you probably know.
It’s well documented that friends who are overly pessimistic can bring you down, both energetically and emotionally. But what about a good friend? One that has helped you through the tough times? One that encourages you to be the person you’ve always dreamed to be?
It’s time to give those truly good friends the credit they deserve. Here are four scientific ways that a good friend truly improves your life.
1. RUN FASTER AND LONGER.
Does your friend love living an active lifestyle? Well, you’re in luck. People have been shown to run both faster and longer after that knowing a friend took a similar run.
In fact, you’re less likely to spend the weekend on your couch, if you know your friend is out there training for a marathon. Even without talking about it, a good friend with an active lifestyle can encourage you to step out of laziness and complacency and try something physically challenging. What a pal!
2. IMPROVE HEALTH.
The habits of people you dine with most often matter. If you have a stressful friend who you dine with often (and this also goes for a spouse), simply eating with them can encourage you to overeat and gain 7.6 pounds in a year.
But having a good friend doesn’t just give you a metabolic advantage. Those with strong, positive social relationships have been shown to have lower blood pressure, better hormone function, stronger immune systems and even reduced inflammation.
Simply put, you’re less likely to die if you have a good friend by your side. So next time you’re feeling a little under the weather, don’t just pop an aspirin—call your best friend!
3. GET SMARTER.
When you surround yourself with smart, diversely talented people, you get smarter. Studies have shown that having a supportive social network—even a virtual one on Facebook or Instagram—can help you learn more information.
That said, virtual friendships are less valuable than one-on-one friendships in this way. Nothing can replace the one-on-one connection of two good friends chatting about coding, astronomy, horticulture, filmmaking, or whatever is on the menu that day.
Thank your friends for expanding your horizons.
4. QUIT NEGATIVE HABITS.
We become a reflection of who we surround ourselves with. If you’re trying to quit drinking alcohol but have a friend who is always hitting up bars at night, that’s going to be a problem. Even if they aren’t begging you to go with them, they are dangling that carrot of undesired behavior in front of you, day after day. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with positive people who encourage your adoption of new, clean habits—especially people who already have those habits.
People who are unable to quit their own bad habits will often try to stop you from succeeding by listing excuse after excuse. No one wants to be a failure all alone. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Find a good friend who supports your development of healthier habits by being the embodiment of positivity in your life.
Surround yourself with good vibes and good people all the time. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should avoid your good friend if they’re going through a bit of a rough patch. They are not a toxic friend; they just need some support.
Our friends are hugely important to our wellness. Take a moment to consider how your best friend has improved your life, whether it’s intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, or physically. Good friends are a true gift. Remind them how much you appreciate them.