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Who Needs Friends? Everyone!

Studies show that friendships can have a major impact on a person’s health and well-being.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Many times the statement is heard, "I just don't have any friends”.  Studies show that friendships can have a major impact on a person’s health and well-being.  Friends boost one’s happiness and help reduce stress.  Friends can help celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and increase a sense of belonging and purpose. 

     Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.  Good friends help improve self-confidence and self-worth.  They can help one cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one.  Good friends can even encourage change in unhealthy lifestyle habits.

     Developing and maintaining friendships requires time and work.  Friendships develop when people have similar interests and lifestyles.  It is important to know, however, that friends a person hangs out with can have two different effects.  Friends can either energize those around them or they can drain the life right out of them.  Friends can encourage or discourage.  Friends can add happiness to life or they can create misery.  Spending all your time with the wrong people will prevent the right people from coming around.  Don't hang with those who are negative, who drag you down, or have no vision.  If they are going nowhere, you will go nowhere.  Find friends going the same way you are going.  Your friends’ qualities--good or bad--will rub off on you.

     A goal in friendship is to have someone to share life adventures and to be happy in the process.  In studying the attributes that can make an acquaintance a good friend, several important qualities are evident. 

     A friend should be a person who is admired.  Friendships develop because a person is fun to be around.  Is that friend happy, honest, a person of integrity and morality?  Do others speak highly of the person? 
     A friend desires to give and to help.  Watch out for those people who only take or who give only for what they can get in return. 
     A friend will protect you. Gossip is destructive.  A friend will not talk about you behind your back, nor will they listen to idle gossip about you without standing up for you.  Friends are loyal. They should enrich the lives of others around them. 
      A friend is someone to whom you can tell your troubles.  They will listen with a sympathetic ear without judgement.  They offer comfort when needed. 
     Friends are an encouragement to each other.  They make you feel better.  Friends are each other's best cheerleaders.  They give each other direction and can offer a different perspective about events and decisions that are made. 
     What about you?  Are you that friend someone is looking for?  Does the atmosphere brighten when you come into contact with friends?  Desire to develop the traits people look for in a friend.  Be the giver in a friend relationship.  Giving not only helps them, but it puts the giver in a position to receive.  Protect friends in every aspect.  Be a loyal, non-judgmental friend who makes sacrifices where your friends are concerned.  Listen to a friend's hurts and sympathize with them, offering sound advice or a shoulder when needed. 
     Don't sit around waiting for friends to find you.  Remember--to have a friend, you must BE a friend.  Go search for that person who needs to be your friend.  Be the one with the positive influence on others.  It's never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come. 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

By Linda Bates
County Extension Agent - 4-H
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Linda Bates
County Extension Agent - 4-H
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841