A nice article on friendship from the Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Volume 34, No 9, September 2016 had a nice article about friendship and the need for friends.

“To your health: The benefits of a happy social life” was on page 6, and listed the following things as being true of good friends:

  • Like, respect and trust each other

  • Accept each other even though they don’t always understand each other

  • Allow space for each other to grow, change and make decisions, even if there’s disagreement

  • Listen and share freely, without judging or criticizing

  • Respect each other’s boundaries

  • Don’t take advantage of each other

  • Accept and give help as needed

  • Don’t reveal private information about each other to others

  • Have each other’s best interests in mind and help each other make good choices

  • Are there for each other but not obsessed with each other

  • Have individual and mutual interests

I thought this was a good way to describe good friends and good friendships, with the caveat that they all have to be balanced against each other. I’ve seen people try to take over someone else’s life on the theory they were just trying to help them make better choices, and I’ve seen people who pushed for really personal private and then bragged to others how they could get secrets out of anyone and went into detail what secrets they’d gotten others to divulge.

Overall if someone asked me “what do you look for in a friend”, I would feel comfortable saying “well, you can listen to me try to explain it, or you can read this article, and that’s pretty close”.

The health benefits were quite impressive. “High social support and low social strain” were correlated with better results than average in blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, and C-reactive protein which indicates inflammation.

Also, having good friends was suspected to help in other ways. It keeps a person more active, more motivated to take care of themselves, makes a person more willing to in turn help others, and reduces a whole bunch of mental and chemical and physical imbalances that come from too much stress or anxiety.

Again, my own personal experience is that “high social support and low social strain” is more important than having someone in your life that you call “a friend” but who is always stressful to be around but never actually is there for you when you ask them for help.

I know that for me personally, I hate writing off friends and will try as hard as I can to fix a friendship which seems to be falling apart. But if nothing I do makes any difference and I hit the point where the answers I get are worse than the questions I’m asking and the situation is still rapidly going downhill, I’ve also found from bitter experience that I will be better off physically, mentally, and even things like clumsiness, sleep cycles, and sugar cravings if instead of trying to fix something the other person is determined to keep breaking, I walk away and use the temporary loneliness to motivate me to try new things and make new friends.

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