“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.”
Real friendship is something magic. As children, I think we intuitively understand this. Most of us can remember the joy of play and getting lost in the moment with our friends. There is a sense of intimacy and togetherness there that makes life come alive.
But what about as we grow older? For me and many of my patients, it can be harder to give our friendships the attention they deserve. We’re so busy, right? Plus, well, we’re awfully grown up. Maybe a little too grown up.
Real friendship is a chance to let go and just be open and honest with someone.
So much of the time, we’re performing roles. It’s how we’ve learned to live as adults. I go to work every day as a doctor. I adjust my patients and counsel them on nutrition. I love my job. But being a doctor is something I do. It’s not who I am.
With a close friend, we can relax out of the roles we usually play. We don’t have to be a professional, or a parent, or a partner, or anything really. It’s liberating. All we need to bring to the table is compassion and openness towards our friend. We can trust that they are doing the same for us. There don’t have to be any expectations beyond that.
That sort of environment is a wonderful place to explore and to be at ease. It takes us back to the fearless way we once played as children, and unlocks that same fearlessness in our present self. We might not go back to swinging from the monkey bars, but we can relax our grip on ourselves.
Strong friendships also have tangible benefits on our physical health.
You probably know how much eating healthy food impacts your wellness (if not, schedule an appointment :). But strong friendships are every bit as important! People who really make an effort to connect with their friends live longer, are healthier, and generally happier.
Part of what makes friendships so valuable to our physical health is the effect they have on stress. You know how talking to a friend when you’re having a bad day usually makes you feel better? That human connection helps not just your emotional state, but also the physical stress response in your body. It signals your central nervous system that you can calm down and that everything is going to be okay.
You don’t have to have a lot of friends for this to work. Really, all you need is someone you feel like you can be yourself around. If you know someone like that, it’s a wonderful thing. If you don’t, that’s okay! Just be open to it. You won’t even have to try much. Someone always comes along.