We often romanticize friendship. We love our friends, so we like to think of our connections as spontaneous and fate-driven.
While this is true to a point, friendship also has a practical side. We seek out specific people for social support. We develop certain friendships for a purpose, whether we are conscious of this fact or not. As explored in The School of Life‘s video The Purpose of Friendship, there are certain components to our relationships that help them to remain stimulating and enjoyable over time.
Here are four human dynamics that help to create lasting and fulfilling friendships:
1. We need inspiration and motivation.
Do you find yourself drawn to people who share similar goals? Good – that means you must be serious about reaching them! Social support is a key component in accomplishing difficult tasks. This is why we diet in groups, run in pairs, and study with others. A person with similar values, by the same thinking, can help us to stay on track when it comes to our personal lives. We seek out friends with similar morals, hoping to keep them strong – or with better ones, hoping to improve our own character. We also look for people who exemplify the qualities we most admire – be they ambition, creativity, or kindness. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself only with people who are going to take you higher.”
2. We need an outlet to better process our emotions.
Have you ever noticed that speaking about your problems out loud helps them to seem more manageable? Vocalizing a problem helps us to mentally identify it and gain perspective. Having a sounding board with which to do this is incredibly valuable. When we talk about our emotions, we are able to see them realistically and manage them in a practical and therapeutic way. When we internalize them, they can grow into something much more confusing and terrifying. Finding a friend who can help us with this process is very valuable. Some might even call it life changing.
3. We need to have fun.
One of the most universally treasured attributes of friendship is the joy it brings into our lives. Laughter may seem frivolous, but it is actually a crucial component of mental stability. A friend who shares our specific sense of humor can break up life’s tension and fight stress. Humor is the very thing that adds color into our often monotonous daily grind. A good dose of laughter has even been proven to benefit our physical health and stimulate brain activity. An hour-long laugh session with a person you love is not a waste of time. It’s physical, mental, and emotional therapy!
4. We need to know that we’re not alone.
People who have been through significant life events together often bond very easily. Recovering addicts, for example, often meet one another in support groups and form lifelong friendships. New mothers, adjusting to sleep deprivation and uncertainty, develop strong bonds that transcend other societal barriers. People who meet in military service or police work experience a similar dynamic. Our traumas and obstacles in life – large and small – can often leave us feeling isolated. Nurturing friendships with similar people can help turn this isolation into a beautiful way to connect with another human being.
“Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your dreams. Distance yourself from negative people who try to lower your motivation and decrease your ambition. Create space for positive people to come into your life. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in your dreams, encourage your ideas, support your ambitions, and bring out the best in you,” wrote Roy T. Bennett.
Who do you choose to surround yourself with today?