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Helena Önneby

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Are Your Relationships Good For Your Health?

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I´ve previously written about the importance of social relations for your health, for example here and here. But a lot of people feel they’re missing close friends or that they don’t get what they need from the ones they have.

This is not necessarily about breaking up with old friends that you might not have as much in common with anymore. It’s about looking at your social relations and feel into whether you have the support around you that you need. And if needed, add new ones.

Good friends are there for you when you need them. They support and uplift you when life is hard and they’re there to celebrate with you when everything is flowing. But mostly, they make you feel seen, heard, valued – and sometimes challenged.

It’s often said that we can’t choose our family and therefore will have to do with the one we have. But whether or not you like your nuclear family, you can choose your family as an adult. I don’t just mean by choosing a partner, because friends can also be part of our chosen family. We can choose who to vacation with, who to share our lives with, and we can find new family members, for as long as we live.

But a lot of people find it hard to find and develop close relationships with new friends as an adult. The belief is that everyone already has their circle of friends and that it’s hard to get into new circles and become close. I want to break that myth. Because if you believe you can, you will…

50% of my own friends that I spend the most time with were not in my life three years ago. And I was already an adult then – at least physically. The truer I am to myself and to the world about who I am, the easier it gets to make new friends. When I’m me, showing my true self, and I dare to take the first step and open up, I’m often met halfway. And whether or not these new relationships last forever or not, I know that the people I surround myself with today are good for me, and therefore good for my health.

I believe the first, and most important step, towards finding new friends, is to really know yourself. Dare to spend time alone with yourself and find out who you truly are, what you like and what you need. And then go find the places where you’ll get those needs met. And the beautiful thing is, where you feel good and flourish, you’ll also find others who also feel good and flourish, and you’ll likely have a lot to share with these people.

Whether it’s at yoga, in the book club, in the ceramics shop, in the sister circle or at the gym, there are endless opportunities to connect with others.

And not to make too big a deal out of every new person in your life having to become your friend, I like to remind myself of this mantra: For a reason, for a season.

People come and go in our lives. Some stay a lifetime, with other we only share a part of our journey. That has nothing to do with the quality of the interaction. A person you meet once on a train can change your life forever, just as a lifelong relationship can. But when it comes to the great health benefits, it’s the safety you get to experience in a deeper relationship with someone, where you can feel safe and protected.

Right now, it might be trickier than usual to meet new people in physical spaces but so many great things are happening online, which can also open up to the whole world. The step towards inviting someone for an online coffee might be a bit shorter than doing it face to face. Absolutely, it hurts being rejected, especially from friends. But it’s just an uncomfortable feeling, you can feel the feeling and let it pass and you can rise up again. It has nothing to with your value as a person. You’ve just received some information on the other persons preferences and potential blocks towards letting people in. That’s okay.

You’re supposed to feel strong and uplifted after having been with your friends, not low and drained. So do an inventory of your relationships and invest some time and energy into developing relationships that make you feel good. And remember, you’ll get back what you put out so be generous with your love and all the quirks that are unique to you!

What are your best tips for making friends as an adult?

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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