International Day of Friendship was designated by the United Nations General Assembly (U.N.). On July 30, we acknowledge and give gratitude for these relationships worldwide, as they promote and encourage peace, happiness, and unity.
We know from our lived experiences that friends can play a significant role in promoting our mental and physical health and well being. For children and adolescents, friendships can provide opportunities for developing a sense of identity, learning social skills and exploring interests. For adults, having positive social relationships can help to alleviate stress, boost happiness, and support us when we are managing challenging life experiences. Research confirms that healthy social connections reduces risks of many mental and physical health problems, including depression and high blood pressure, and can lead to extended life expectancy.
Qualities of a Healthy Friendship: What are They?
Consider the people who you would count as your friends, and also think about yourself as you review the following ten qualities of a healthy friendship. Are there areas that you can improve? Nurturing friendships is as important as nurturing family relationships if you want them to be strong and healthy.
- Respect and Trust: feeling respected for who you are and knowing that you can trust your friend are important foundational qualities of a healthy friendship. Being able to disagree at times while maintaining both your self respect and respect for your friend helps to build strength and openness in the relationship.
- Talking and Listening: sharing thoughts and feelings, taking the time to listen without judgement helps to build intimacy in a friendship. Ideally there is a give and take in the exchanging of communication and reaching out to one another to connect. Listening without giving advice unless asked to do so is a way to offer unconditional support.
- Safety: physical, psychological and emotional safety are important for any healthy relationship. Fear of being harmed is not part of a healthy friendship or relationship.
- Boundaries: Respect each other’s boundaries, including keeping confidential information private, are ways to create safety and deepen friendship over time.
- Non-Judgement: a healthy friendship provides a space where you can be yourself without fear of criticism or rejection. While you may not agree with all of your friend’s choices, you can accept them for who they are and validate their lived experiences.
- Forgiveness: a healthy relationship is not a perfect one. The ability to acknowledge our mistakes, make amends and seek forgiveness in a relationship is part of what helps it to grow. Our ability to accept apologies from others and offer forgiveness is equally important.
- Kindness and Caring: showing kindness, thoughtfulness and offering gratitude toward our friends brings joy and strengthens the bond. Simple gestures and sharing words of appreciation for the friendship are meaningful ways we can show we care.
- Dependability: being your word and following through on commitments are important for a healthy friendship. When both people make time for the friendship it shows that it is valued.
- Fun: enjoying each other’s company, whether it is sharing an interest, an experience or simply time, a healthy friendship adds an element of playfulness and enjoyment to life.
- Individuality: a healthy friendship is as unique as the people who share it. You should feel good about who you are when you are with your friend, and they similarly will feel good when they are with you. That’s part of the beauty of a healthy friendship- we get to be the best version of ourselves!
Christine Bibby, MSW, RSW Social Worker, Brant Mental Health Solutions