Is Your Best Friend Bad For You?
I just got back from a business trip where I tacked on an extra day and a half to see a dear friend from childhood and her growing family. My friend and I have one of those relationships where it always seems easy. We just slide right back into hangout mode no matter how long we’ve been apart.
It’s common knowledge that friendship is good for you: people with friends live longer and are healthier. In fact, close friendships may make you more likely to live longer than exercise! (That’s news that calls for an extra slice of chocolate cake at girls’ night out, right?)
But not all friendship is healthy or helpful. For your social connections to really be good for you, pay close attention to who you’re spending time with.
Do You Like Your Averages?
Jim Rohn, a business expert, said “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This idea is sort of like the firnedship version of “you are what you eat.” The more time we spend with the people closest to us, the more our ideas and behaviors influence one another. Whatever outcome we’re desiring – happiness, success, peace, you name it – we’re more likely to get it if we’re spending time with people who have what we seek.
In more tangible terms, one study showed that weight gain was practically “contagious” among friends. People often gain weight when their closest friends do. This is because behaviors become normalized in groups, so make sure the behavior that gets normalized and repeated in your groups is behavior you want to make your habit.
Cancel That B%#&@ Session
There’s one common behavior among that makes you miserable: Venting.
It’s natural to use friends as a sounding board and support system. But venting, which is complaining with no plan to take action or get an issue resolved, is actually unhealthy. Experts say venting allows you to release just enough frustration that you stay stuck in place and never make any headway against your problem.
Hanging out with negative people can also make you feel more negative. Humans are naturally empathetic, so when we hear other people talk about being miserable, our brains start to mimic those emotions, even if we don’t have a concrete reason to feel badly. Chronic complainers and people who vent can leave you feeling frustrated, anxious, and blue. And you might not even know why!
Connections with people are critical. But WHO those people are and how they behave may be more important to your mental health than you knew. Visiting my friend this week left me feeling loved and content! But if you have a friendship that drags you down, it’s okay to cut the cord for your own well being.