Choose Friends Wisely: The Impact of Relationships on Mental Health
Friends come in all shapes and sizes, each with their unique ability to enhance our lives. Friendships not only foster a sense of belonging within our community but also boost our self-esteem and well-being. Which is why, who you choose to spend your time with matters more than you might think. Whether we realize it or not, our social connections have a profound influence on our mental and emotional well-being.
Friends Fuel Fulfillment
Humans are inherently social beings. Our relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances provide us with a sense of belonging, support, and companionship. These connections not only enrich our lives but also have a direct impact on our mental health.
Psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad's research highlights the profound effects of social isolation on mental well-being. In a meta-analysis of 148 studies involving more than 300,000 participants, she found that individuals with stronger social connections had a 50% increased likelihood of survival compared to those with weaker or limited social ties.
Moods Can Be Contagious
It’s a phenomenon, known as emotional contagion and illustrates how our emotions can be influenced by the people we interact with. People often mimic what others do. Often unconsciously. So, if you spend time with positive and supportive individuals, you're likely to experience an uplift in your own mood.
In a study published in the journal, Psychological Science, researchers found that being around happy people increased our chances of becoming happier ourselves. Likewise, being around people who consistently exhibit negative emotions can lead to feelings of anxiety or sadness.
Friends Can Influence Your Choices
In addition to hijacking the way we feel, friends can also greatly influence the decisions we make in life, especially as teens. We often think that self-control comes from within, yet many of our actions depend just as much on our friends and family as on ourselves.
Psychologist, Dr. David Asch studied how friends can shape our choices - particularly in matters of lifestyle and health habits. He published the results in the New England Journal of Medicine. His conclusion? Surrounding ourselves with individuals who line up with our goals and values can have an impact on the paths we decide to take.
Toxic Relationships and Mental Health
While positive relationships can boost our mental well-being, toxic ones can have the opposite effect and can drag us down. Toxic relationships are characterized by manipulation, emotional abuse, or constant negativity. Being in such relationships can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, who specializes in narcissistic behaviour warns about the detrimental effects of toxic relationships on mental health. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing and distancing oneself from toxic individuals to preserve one's mental and emotional health.
Building Healthy Relationships
At Toronto Psychotherapy Space (TPS), we emphasize the importance of fostering healthy relationships. Building and maintaining positive connections can lead to improved self-esteem, reduced stress, and enhanced overall well-being. It's essential to invest time and effort in nurturing these relationships.
Clinical psychologist Dr. John Gottman's research on couples highlights the significance of healthy communication and emotional intimacy in maintaining strong relationships. His findings emphasize the importance of active listening, empathy, and understanding in building and sustaining healthy connections.
At TPS, we are committed to helping our clients navigate the complexities of their connections and supporting them in their journey toward better mental wellness. If you find yourself struggling with your relationships or their effects on your mental health, seeking professional help from a psychotherapist can be a valuable step toward healing and personal growth.
We offer free 20-minute psychotherapy consultations to help match you with the right therapist. Please fill out the contact form located here on our website and our Care Coordinator will contact you within the same business day.