They can make us happier, improve our eating and fitness habits, stave off loneliness, and lower our stress levels.
In doing so, our friends play a pivotal role in protecting us from chronic illnesses caused by high blood pressure, anxiety, poor diet, lack of exercise and other bad lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking too much.
This association between friendships and good health has been well documented for decades.
But experts warn it is important to invest your time in the right kinds of friendships to avoid sacrificing your goals and values, which could make you depressed and unhealthy.
HOW TO PICK A GOOD FRIEND
Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and a lecturer at Northeastern University, is the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
In her writing, and working with patients, she has come across countless toxic friendships, and strong ones.
‘There’s a lot of research how the people we surround ourselves with affect our self control,’ Morin explains to Daily Mail Online.
‘Having close friends can help you to live longer from blood pressure to your cholesterol levels.
‘But while some friends inspire you to become better, some sabotage our goals.
‘It’s important to work out who your good friends are.’
Here are her top tips:
1. You can have too MANY friends
‘It’s more about quality of friendships than quantity,’ Morin explains.
‘People who spend too much time on social media and have more social media connections experience more stress and anxiety.
‘Knowing that you have people who you are genuinely close to who can confide in will make you feel stronger, and that will have a positive impact on your health.’
2. Too few friends can be incredibly damaging
‘I came across a bizarre study which said when you don’t have a lot of friends you take bigger financial risks,’ Morin said.
‘We experience uncomfortable emotions after going through a break-up or feeling rejected. That can drive you to try to compensate by spending money on things you don’t need.’
3. Make time to SEE your friends in real life
‘You don’t want to exchange real-life quality time for time spent on social media,’ Morin warns.
‘Face to face conversations are key to helping you bond and nurture friendships. If you don’t spend much time together, you won’t have a strong friendship.’
4. Bad friends derail your plans
‘Look for people who inspire you to become better,’ Morin says.
‘People who are self disciplined can help us keep our diet on track.
‘If you have friends who want to derail your goals. We have all had friends who collude with us and encourage us to make poor choices.
‘Don’t give away your power. Don’t let other people take a toll on the way you think and feel and behave.
‘If you find you’re working really hard on a goal and your friend is sabotaging that, then you can have a frank conversation with that person and say “this is important to me”.
‘If you have said no and they persist, you might need to leave.
‘Sometimes you might have to decide to cut people out of your life.’
5. Take a balanced approach
Morin warns that while some friends may not be the best influence, you don’t want to cut everyone out that doesn’t follow the same diet, career trajectory, and evening plans as you.
‘You still want to have fun with your friends, even if some of them might influence you to do certain things,’ she explains.
‘It’s about finding a balance, and not giving away your power.’