4 Ways Your Friends are Beneficial to Your Health

Friends. We can’t live with them and we can’t live without them. No, seriously. We all know that friendship (or any sort of human interaction) can be a bit stressful at times. It’s much easier to avoid the general population and declare that Netflix and your bed are your true best friends, but a little party never killed nobody, and your friends are pretty much living proof of that. They can actually give you a little more of a mental boost than you think and we’re here to tell you how.

1. They help you get more sleep

A University of Chicago professor named John Cacioppo completed a study about how beneficial social connection is to mental health. According to Cacioppo, loneliness is a source of unhappiness. The lonelier you are, the more you tend to toss and turn at night. It might be a little hard to believe that as a busy college student, there’s anything that can keep you from passing out as soon as you hit the sheets; however, there is a chance that keeping your distance from the people around you might result in some insomnia-filled nights. 

2. They help you relax

There’s actually evidence (in the form of a psychological study) that proves having a shoulder to cry on can improve your health and reduce your stress levels. According to the observations of Laura Cousino Klein and Shelley Taylor, being able to lean on a friend when you’re going through a rough time can actually benefit you more than you think. The two researchers discovered that women produce greater amounts of oxytocin (a hormone that has an anti-depressant-like effect) during social interaction. Think of all of those times when you’ve been so relieved after venting to your best friend about a romantic fling that didn’t exactly turn out how you expected. Brittany Couch, a senior at the University of Georgia, is the perfect example. "I appreciate having friends around me when I'm going through a hard time because they offer me a different type of support system than other people," she says. "Talking to my friends when there's an issue works out so much better for me because it gives me a chance to get out of my own head and feel like my feelings are validated." This is just another reason to have friends that are there for you when the going gets tough.

3. They give you more self-control

If you have pretty strong friends, you’re in luck. Being around people that have a strong sense of willpower makes it easier for you to exert more restraint in everyday situations. Michelle vanDellen, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, explains in a study that people are less likely to act out in the presence of their friends because of how their behavior might affect other people. “The take-home message of this study is that picking social influences that are positive can improve your self-control,” she told Best Health Magazine. “And by exhibiting self-control, you’re helping others around you do the same." Brittany also points out that, when it comes to decision-making, it's important for her to look at things from the outside. "Anytime I'm faced with making a difficult decision, I think of the 'eagle eye,'" she says. "I feel like someone is always watching and every decision I make affects the people I know in some way or another."

4. They increase your sense of belonging

College can be a pretty tough journey for some of us, so it's important for us to have friends that we can lean on when it's time to put the books away and have a good time. There's comfort in knowing that you have a group of friends you can call the family that you never had. "I moved from Atlanta to New York and I definitely remember being homesick for quite some time," says Amber Ferrell, a senior at Columbia University. "I can't leave campus and go see my family as often as some of my friends can so it was really important for me to find a group of people that I knew I could feel at home with while being so far away from what I'm used to." According to a piece written in Psychology Today by Dr. Karyn Hall, friends make you feel like you're a part of something bigger. "A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health and happiness," she writes. "When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult time. You are not alone. There is comfort in that knowledge." 

Sometimes growing up means doing your best to avoid social interaction at all costs. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little alone time but just remember that no matter how often your friends may get on your nerves, you should embrace them because they’re helping you live a stronger, healthier life.