Balanced Mind,  Self Care

Why Finding Friendship is Good for Your Health

Humans are social creatures and need to maintain social connections to protect themselves against stress. Networks of mutual loyalty and support reduce our mortality rate from any cause and increase our chances of survival. Why? Friendship is part of our evolutionary history, and building strong alliances results in greater resilience to stress and improves overall physical and mental health.

How Does Friendship Help?

-Friendship acts as a Human Safety Net by providing support during difficult times.

-Friends can help us cope with challenging life events and traumatic events. 

-Friendships can also help us feel less isolated and lonely.

-Having another person around to feel your pain helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol.

-A friend lends support by just being available to listen.

-Friends help to create a distance between us and stressful events.

-Friends can offer hugs, which can lower stress levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.

How Many Friends do I need?

Having just the right number and the right kind of friends is also important. Having too many can heighten stress. So can having difficult ones. If you have too many, it can make you feel overloaded, and you may lose important aspects of the relationship. And if you have the wrong ones, they can cause you more stress. Five close friends are a good number. With this number, they are aware of your most personal life experiences and can provide mutual support and caring. Above this, you may still know them well enough to gain support in times of crisis, but as the number increases to casual friends and acquaintances, that familiarity wavers and might not offer you the kind of support you need. However, there is no magic number for social connections. It’s all about whether you have people in your life who meet your need for emotional, spiritual, and other kinds of support. Most people can have up to 5 intimate bonds: spouses, best friends, and so on. 15 close friends: people you trust and spend time with regularly. 50 friends: people you would invite to a personal event like a wedding or dinner.

How much time should I spend with friends to gain benefits?

From concentrating on careers to making the most of travel opportunities and other responsibilities, we’re all guilty of letting the weeks go by without proper quality time scheduled in with our friends.

“Get one to three hours of social interaction per day. That’s between seven and 21 hours of social time per week—far more than the average of 34 minutes of socializing most of us get each day. This value aligns with the approximate 24 hours per week that tribal and pastoral societies have historically enjoyed. While this may seem like a daunting jump in social hours for some, social interactions can include a wide variety of activities: chit-chat with your barista, a phone call to a friend, and conversation over dinner” (Seven Guidelines for Healthy Social Connection, Kiffer George Card, May 12, 2023). 

Having good friends around has many health benefits, from lowering blood pressure and decreasing cortisol levels to reducing feelings of Isolation and loneliness. Even as little as ten minutes a day of friendly conversation can boost mood and brain function.

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  • This is so true!
    I have been leading a bible study in my neighborhood called “find your people”. It has been eye opening to hear in the book all the research about this and how it is biblical that we find people and live in community.

    • Hi Andrea, thank you for your comment! I would love to know more about the book you and your group are reading. It is wonderful that you are doing this in your neighborhood!

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