five friends sitting on a log at the beach enjoying watermelon slices

Friendship’s Importance to Mental Health

    I’ve been through plenty of transitory periods in my life. Of course, my experiences weren’t completely unique to me. Everyone experiences big changes throughout their lives. What makes us different is where those changes take us, and how we handle them. What also matters is the people we’ve got around us when changes are happening. I’ve learned that making new friends is one of the best ways to take care of my mental health when facing new opportunities in my life.

    When I was starting university in a new city, far from my friends and family, it was a drastic change in my life. I was all alone (or so I thought) in a new place, with a new routine, and unfamiliar responsibilities. Needless to say, it was a stressful time and a learning experience for sure.

    Looking back, I realize just how much harder it could have been for me if I were lacking one crucial element in my life: friends.

The Benefits of Friendships

    When it comes to wellbeing, having friends nearby can make all the difference and improve your mood. Studies show that having a friend living nearby can increase your chances of being happy by about 25%. When we’re around each other, we can support and lift each other up and improve our moods together.

    When I was studying at university, most of my friends still lived back in our hometown. The lack of their physical presence was sorely felt throughout the semester, but we devised a schedule for video calling and having our meals together on the weekend over a video call. We organized monthly game nights and checked in on each other during exam season. These little things helped me stay grounded and remember that, while they were living far away, I had people in my life who cared for me and wanted to spend time with me.

Making New Friends Can Help

    While it was nice to have an existing support system, I knew it was time to meet new people I could actually be with in person. I tried my best to socialize on campus. It sounds daunting, and it absolutely was, since everyone was so busy and stressed trying to keep up with the work. Something about growing older makes it seem like it’s harder to make new friends, but I soon realized that’s not the case. I met people in study groups, exchanged contacts in class, and got acquainted with the people in my dorm. Not all friendships panned out, but that’s just the nature of things. We aren’t always perfect matches with each other, and each friendship should feel healing and supportive. There’s a difference between a healthy friendship and an unhealthy one.

    Healthy friendships involve listening. There’s a balance between giving and taking, between talking and listening. When you meet someone, it’s important to talk about yourself but to also take the time to listen to their part. Checking in with my friends back home, we took time to talk about our individual lives to make sure nobody felt left out. Besides, it was always insightful to hear the perspectives of others. The conversation is a two-way street, and

that couldn’t be truer in the company of friends. In fact, studies even suggest your brain health can improve when you have friends that make you feel heard. Having someone in your life with who you can bond and discuss your life, thoughts, and concerns is extremely important for your mental health.

    Friends helped me out when things were rough, and being in university, things got rough often. I met a lot of fellow students in my class, and while at first, we exchanged contact information because of upcoming tests and assignments, we slowly got to know each other better. It was always reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone in these challenging situations and that I could study with someone who might have the same questions or difficulties with the material as me. The social support that friends provide can be understated but immense and can offer health benefits in the long run. Taking on daunting tasks together always makes them seem a bit easier.

Having activity nights and study sessions really helped break up the monotony and stress of studying and working.

    That said, finding or making friends can be a complicated process with different steps every time. Some of us find it more challenging to make friends, especially if we’re at university and are preoccupied with studying. Others are simply more introverted. Apps like Passionfruit can help make the process easier by letting you link up with people in your area who share the same interests as you. This makes it easier to schedule a study session, coffee date, or campus get-together by providing you with a focus on finding people like you. The Passionfruit app lets you build your support system with ease, whether you’re busy with finals or just not fond of large crowds and parties. We all need someone to lean on, and the bonds we build with each other are detrimental to our well-being. I’ve been to plenty of events where it just doesn’t work out because I’d get caught up in enjoying the moment or forget to exchange contact info. Searching on social media for fellow students and people you meet can be tough, too. When using friendship apps like Passionfruit, you’re focused on the task at hand: finding someone to connect with.

Final Thoughts

    I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for my support group of friends. Having activity nights and study sessions really helped break up the monotony and stress of studying and working. It reminded me that there will always be people who care for me, and who want my company and that I want theirs, too. Having people to bounce ideas off of or have a chat with over a cup of coffee are some of life’s small but powerful moments. It’s these moments that make us stronger, for ourselves and for each other. My friends helped me get better grades, become a better listener, and helped me learn to manage my stress and anxieties during one of life’s many turning points, and they can do that for you, too.