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More Good Friends = Better Mental Health 6 Helps

Hara Estroff Marano, 1Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. What is more, we seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals.

The upshot is, we function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life.”

There are many reasons we avoid friendships:

Matthew Hunt, 2“Some people experience anxiety in most social and performance situations, a condition known as generalized social anxiety disorder. For other people with social phobia, anxiety is connected with specific social situations, such as speaking to strangers, eating at restaurants, or going to parties”.

Matthew Hunt, 3 “Most of us think of major depression as living in a rabbit hole and not being able to get out of bed. And that is true for a great many of us, especially the women. Men? Could be a different story. Could be almost the opposite-anger.”

    “Ali Dabaja, MD describes it this way,Instead of becoming sad or withdrawn, men who are depressed might come off as angry, irritable and aggressive, abusive: develop physical symptoms, including back pain, headaches, and sleep problems.” Not conducive to being friendly.

     Michael Ryan, Psy.D, 4Studies confirm adult friendships aren’t just nice to have if you’ve got the time. They play a central role in a healthy, happy and meaningful life. Some studies even suggest close friendships help reduce the risk of everything from high blood pressure to depression. Here are six suggestions for making friendships at any age or life stage.”

Dr. Ryan offers 6 Helps:

  1. Make friends where you are.Introduce yourself to neighbors, start a conversation with another parent at the school or playground and invite colleagues to lunch. Relationships are easier to establish and maintain if they start where you already are.
  2. Break out of your comfort zone.Arrange to do something with a new friend that falls outside of the same-old and may interest you both. It doesn’t matter whether you go skydiving, take a cooking class or see a foreign film. The idea is to share a new experience, which studies show can enhance bonding.
  3. Make time for hobbies.Whether you enjoy rock-climbing, yoga or reading, get out of the house to do the activities you’re crazy about. While many of these hobbies are individual pursuits, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy them with other people. Find a meet-up group for rock climbers, sign up for a yoga retreat or start a book club. There are even groups that allow solitary knitters to ply their needles in groups rather than solo. The key is forging friendships around an activity you’re already doing to ensure it fits within your busy schedule.
  4. Chat up your coworkers.Studies show that people who socialize at the office have better overall health and may even live longer than their reclusive counterparts. So rather than hunker down in your office or cubicle, make an effort to mingle with your colleagues. Lunch with a co-worker once a week, participate in water cooler chats and arrange a monthly happy hour for office staff. Not only does it help with team-building and satisfaction on the job, it may also lead to lasting friendships.
  5. Ask for help.If you never ask friends for favors, you rob them of a two-way, give-and-take relationship. The “I-can-do-it-all” mentality hurts you (because no one can actually do it all!), and it hurts current and future friends because everyone wants to feel needed and valued. Need a school carpool buddy or help to organize your garage? Ask! (And then be sure to reciprocate when your help is needed.)
  6. Reach out on social media.If you’ve fallen out of touch with friends from high school, college or a former job, consider reaching out to them on social media. It’s a fun way to re-establish old friendships. And you can exchange messages through social media at any hour, no matter how busy your schedule. The only caveat: When you’re face-to-face with friends (new or old), make sure to put your phone in airplane mode and focus on the person or people you are with.


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  1. Hara Estroff Marano,, published on July 1, 2003 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016
  2. Matthew Hunt, Social anxiety,
  3. Matthew Hunt, Depression in Men, (Ali Dahaja MD quoted)
  4. Michael Ryan, Psy.D, How to Make Friends as an adult, Detroit Free Press,



I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!