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5 Ways to Maintain Lifelong Friendships

Originally published by Psychology Today

What’s the most important quality of a good friend?

When it comes to our physical and mental health, friendship may truly be the best medicine. An Australian study showed that strong social networks may lengthen survival in elderly men and women, with good friends being even more likely to increase longevity than close family members.

As author Edna Buchanon put it, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” A good friendship is indeed something to savor and protect. Yet, like any human relationship, even the closest of friendships can unravel in moments of weakness.

The closer we get to someone, the more invested we become in their emotions and behavior. We are far more likely to be reactive to our best friends. When they aren’t feeling or acting quite themselves, they can incite feelings of frustration, judgment, competitiveness, or hurt in us.

How can you avoid a falling out with someone you’ve long trusted and cared about? Start by accepting the fact that you can only change yourself. And, almost always, fixing a friendship is a matter of fixing yourself.

Think about what kind of friend you want to be as you consider these five tips for keeping your friendships strong throughout the years:

1. Be Honest

Relationships built on false build-ups or phony facades are only as good as their foundation. Superficial relationships often fizzle over time. To achieve a solid friendship, you have to be honest with each other. Being able to offer and receive feedback from someone you trust is a gift that can easily be overlooked.

Setting aside your ego and being willing to let someone know you and ask questions of you is invaluable. Friends are likely to ask the tough questions—“Why do you think you’re attracted to that person?” or, “Do you think you might be feeling jealous or hurt in this situation?” Having a friend who can tell it to you straight will help you know yourself better. Being able to reciprocate further challenges you to live with honesty, directness, and integrity.

There is no way to feel more connected to someone than to open yourself up to them. Plus, keeping an honest dialogue helps prevent you from building up cynicism and boiling over in a moment when you feel triggered.

2. Repair Misattunements

When you know someone well, you’re familiar with their strengths as well as with their weaknesses. And so, just as you know how to cheer them up, you know exactly how to tear them down. In moments of tension, we can let things slip out that are far more hurtful to our closest friends because they come from us.

No one is perfect. We are all sure to mess up at times, but when we do, we have to set pride aside and repair the situation. Being honest shouldn’t be about being cruel. Finding a balance where you can say what you think without being parental, defining, or judgmental is important for keeping a level of trust between you and a friend.

When you make a mistake, apologize for it. Make sure the friend understands that your intention is not to hurt or punish. Explain where you went wrong and what you mean by saying sorry. And don’t be afraid to be the one who reaches out; we all have either been part of, or known pairs of friends who’ve stopped speaking for months, because neither individual would come forward to admit fault. Time is precious and not worth wasting, especially when it comes to the people who make us happy.

3. Make Time and Show Appreciation

The familiarity and comfort we feel with another person can sometimes leave us crossing lines or forgetting to show gratitude. As with a spouse, partner, children, or family, we have to find time to make real contact with friends in order for the relationship to flourish. Slipping into a routine can leave us more likely to take friends for granted.

Make sure to express how you feel, and take actions that show how well you know and care for them. Generosity is the key to happiness. A good friend shows interest in who we are and what we struggle with, but it is important not to let the relationship become one-sided or to become self-centered in your focus.

Be sure to engage in acts of kindness and consideration that are focused on your friends. Do the things that they would perceive as caring. Consider their interests and passions when planning a way to say thank you.

A woman I know used to plan over-the-top birthday parties for her best friend. After years of this, her friend quietly confessed to her that these lavish affairs made her feel uncomfortable and shy and that she’d much rather go out to a casual dinner with a few friends. The revelation led the friend to realize that her party-planning had always been more about her than her friend. She wasn’t truly considering her friend’s feelings when planning an act of acknowledgment.

4. Alter Your Expectations and Don’t Make Assumptions

In any relationship, we can start to impose certain expectations on others that set us up to feel hurt or disappointed. Don’t be quick to pick apart your friends. Accept that they are human and that they will make mistakes.

We may show our friendship in one way, whether through affection, favors, or gifts, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect the same from them. Don’t assume what your friends are thinking; Check it out instead. And accept that you could be wrong about their viewpoint—every individual possesses a sovereign mind and their own perceptions of the world. They may, in turn, have a very different way of expressing their feelings or showing that they care.

A close friend of mine, whom I’ve known since we were kids, rarely remembers to buy me a gift on my birthday. It would be easy to use this fact to feel bad, to build a case that she’s forgetful or just doesn’t care about me the way I care for her. But that would be far from the truth. She simply shows warmth in other ways, often bringing me books she thinks I will love, picking up my favorite tea, or sitting to talk with me for hours when she suspects I’m not feeling my best.

5. Choose Compassion Over Cynicism

A good rule of thumb when it comes to our relationships is to care more about doing what’s right than being right. When you get to know a person, you get to know their worst traits, and it’s easy to become cynical toward those negative aspects of their personality. It’s far more preferable to be compassionate. Compassion keeps us vulnerable instead of tough and guarded, or seeing the world through a negative lens.

recent study showed that toddlers as young as age two get joy from seeing others helped. The Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley reported this as “the first study to suggest that altruism is intrinsically rewarding even to very young kids, and that it makes them happier to give than to receive.”

Compassion, then, is its own reward, as it leaves us feeling good within ourselves regardless of how a friend may be behaving. Being honest and straightforward without being cynical is perhaps the most important quality of a good friend.

Why It Matters

In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Australian nurse Bronnie Ware listed “not maintaining friendships” as one of people’s biggest death-bed regrets. Keeping close friends is an essential part of life that gives us meaning and fulfillment.

Holding yourself to these five standards will help you develop within yourself and expand your potential to grow meaningful friendships throughout your life. It’s no surprise that those people who are most giving of themselves are the most liked. Thus, keeping a realistic, yet compassionate outlook on the world will inherently expand your own world, attracting others along the way. All of these characteristics are contagious: By being the kind of person you respect, you encourage others to do the same.

What are Back to School Anxiety Symptoms

This article was orginally published by our partner Newport Academy
There is a significant difference between temporary anxiety over school and an anxiety disorder that requires professional treatment. For example, teens with an anxiety disorder experience very high levels of anxiety. Moreover, these feelings get worse over time, rather than improving on their own.

In addition, teens with anxiety disorders struggle with feelings of tension and fear. These symptoms are ongoing and interfere with daily activities. Furthermore, the disorder affects relationships with peers and family members.

While there are different types of teen anxiety disorders, many of these disorders manifest in a set of common symptoms. Here are some of the signs that a child is experiencing a level of anxiety that warrants an assessment by a mental health professional.

  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from social interactions
  • Trouble sleeping at night, but often seems fatigued during the day
  • Loss of appetite and other changes in eating habits
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Performance dip in school, poor report cards, poor testing results
  • Frequent unexplained physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness, despair, and worthlessness
  • Using drugs and drinking as forms of self-medication for anxiety
  • Avoiding people, places, and things that trigger anxious feelings

Parents who recognize these symptoms in a teen should reach out for support and an expert assessment.

Why is friendship important when someone is unwell?

This article was originally published by Mental Health Foundation

Why is friendship important when someone is unwell?

When someone has a mental health problem or is experiencing mental distress, it is important to try to keep friendships going, even though people with mental health problems often want to see their friends less than usual.

Friendship can play a key role in helping someone live with or recover from a mental health problem and overcome the isolation that often comes with it. It’s natural to worry when a friend is troubled and most of us don’t want to give up on a friend in distress, however difficult it may be to support them. Many people who do manage to keep their friendship going feel that it’s stronger as a result.

Friendships work both ways. A mental health problem doesn’t mean that you’re never able to support or laugh with someone else.

“My friend helped me to get a grip on myself by making it clear it wasn’t acceptable or safe for me to allow my condition to dominate my life.”

How does mental ill health affect friendships?

  • People with more severe forms of mental illness have smaller social networks than others and have more family members than friends in their social circle.
  • People with smaller social networks, with fewer intimate relationships, find it more difficult to manage social situations.
  • People with more long-lasting mental health problems often have relationships mainly with other people with mental health problems.
  • People with mental health problems often anticipate rejection from other people because of the stigma associated with mental health. They may avoid social contact, as a form of ‘self-stigma’.

Be with those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.

This article was originally published by Good Therapy

Friendship can help people feel connected and allow for the sharing of thoughts and emotions. It may even contribute to a longer lifespan! Without close friendships, isolation and feelings of loneliness can lead to mental health issues such as depression. Studies indicate that people with less social connection may have weaker immune systems and physical health. Other studies show that currently, people report having fewer friends they can confide in than in past years.

There are many reasons a person may have fewer friendships. They may have physical or mental health issues that prevent them from meeting others. Some people might have difficulty with social interaction. This can be due to shynesssocial anxietyautism, or another condition. Others simply prioritize different areas of their life and feel they have little time to invest in friendships.

If you feel a lack of friendship is affecting your mental health, help is available. Speaking with a therapist is one way to work on issues that make friendship difficult. A therapist may help you learn how to meet your personal needs for social connection or share some strategies for making friends. They might help with social skills, time management, or offer guidance in addressing recurring issues that may have harmed past friendships.

How to Say the Right Thing to Someone Struggling

Talking about behavioral health conditions can be challenging – but it doesn’t have to be if you know the
right words to say. Oftentimes, people with the best intentions end up using language that isn’t helpful.
That’s why it’s important to be mindful of the words you use to show your support. You can use
the ACT acronym as an easy way to remember how to help – Acknowledge what they’re feeling, show
you Care, and help connect them with Treatment.

Here are some tips on how you can ACT:

1. “Tell me more about it.” – Instead of saying phrases like “get over it” or “you’ll feel better
soon,” remember the power of being a good listener.
2. “I’m here for you.” – Show your support by letting your friend or loved one know you care. You
may not understand how they are feeling, but you can express your willingness to be there
whenever needed.
3. “It’s OK to feel this way.” – People who are struggling with their behavioral health often feel
alone and hopeless. Remind your friend or loved one that you are sorry that they’re feeling this
way. Fight the urge to come up with simple solutions. Depression is not a simple problem you
can easily solve.
4. “What can I do to help you?” – People with depression often feel tired and overwhelmed. Let
them know you’re available. Taking on small tasks can make a big difference for someone who is
struggling.
5. “This isn’t your fault.” – Depression is a mental health condition that cannot be fixed with just a
bit of positive thinking. Avoid saying, “This will pass.” Phrases like this minimize your friend’s or
loved one’s feelings.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health Disorders and Stress Affect Working-Age Americans

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