If one were to look up the definition of a friend or friendship, they would read that it is a relationship that is bound by mutual affection, as well as strong personal regard. This is an individual who offers their support and assistance to another human being. Academics have studied friendships and have found that these relationships have the power to influence emotions and the well-being of others.
Friendship can take on many forms and while it can vary from person to person and even from place to place, there are still some very fundamental aspects of what being a friend is. Some of the essential characteristics that accompany these relationships can include empathy, affection, compassion, a mutual understanding of the other person, trust and a general sense of enjoyment when in that person’s company. There are no true limits on how people become friends and yet most friendships develop based on shared interests, a common background or even having similar jobs.
Studies have even shown that one of the powers of strong friendships is an increase in happiness. The World Happiness Database lists “close friendships” as one of their ways to lead a happier life. They do indicate however that the number of friends does not influence the level of contentment one has in their life. Happiness contributes to an individual’s overall health and well-being, so strong relationships with friends will contribute to one’s life in a positive manner.
Within the study of psychology, one’s relationships with others is a part of one’s development emotionally. In fact, it is considered to be emotionally damaging if an individual lacks true companionship. Some of the strongest friendships are considered to be the one’s that are developed early on in life.
With academics studying what friendships are and how they develop, it makes sense to note that there is a life cycle to developing these relationships. There is the making of a friend which consists of different and unique aspects and of course there is the much sadder ending of the relationship.
The development of a friendly relationship consists of three very important factors. First there is proximity, being able to see a person and interact with them on a regular basis is the first step towards relationship building. Next is the continual interactions with the other person. These encounters, particularly the unplanned ones, help to form the bonds. The third and seemingly most important factor, is the opportunity to actually share one’s thoughts, feelings and opinions.
As the definition of friendship and what makes a good friend has developed over time, one thing that is generally very consistent is the idea of quality. A relationship of quality is one in which conflict is resolved in a strong manner and can lead to an even better relationship. Another aspect of quality in friendship is being able to engage in even the simplest of activities with that person, and generally feeling a sense of happiness or even contentment.
True friends do not have to be the people one met on their first day of school, nor does it have to be someone that has been around for a long time. A meaningful relationship is about more than how long one has known the other person. Instead, these relationships are the one’s where there is a connection that develops into something deeper.
When a person meets someone they connect with on a mental level, developing these relationships can be the most fulfilling. This is an individual who will listen without judging and will offer advice if requested. It is the moments with these people that do not have to be anything more than just being in the other person’s company, that showcase just how important a real friendship can be.
There is power in friendship. These are the relationships that can change one’s emotional state for the better. Perhaps one of the best quotes to illustrate just how powerful a friendship really can be is, “friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Friends become family and even distance cannot destroy that relationship when it is real and meaningful.
Opinion Written and Edited By Kimberley Spinney
BBC News – Can we make ourselves happier?
The New York Times – Friends of a Certain Age
Photo Courtesy of Wrote’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Photo Courtesy of Jackson Ezinga’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License