I remember having a friend who always seemed to find something negative to say about me, even when my self-confidence was at its lowest.
Yet, she would comfort me when I struggled with my mental health, saying things like “trust yourself” and “you’ll be okay.”
Our friendship was a push and pull relationship.
She was my main friend at the time, so I held on to our friendship, even when it felt confusing.
Eventually, I let her go.
I started recovering from depression with the help of a naturopathic doctor. And I knew I had to let her go.
I never looked back.
As humans, our self-esteem and well-being often depend on others, and research has proven this time and again.
A friendship can increase or reduce your happiness.
I’ll discuss four studies and their methods to demonstrate this point.
Holt-Lunstad et al. (2010) analyzed data from earlier studies with over 300,000 participants. They examined information about people’s social relationships and well-being, finding a link between the number and quality of social relationships and people’s happiness.
Häusser et al. (2014) asked participants to rate their feelings about their social relationships and answer questions about their stress levels and well-being. And they found connections between the type of social relationships and the participants’ well-being.
Demir & Özdemir (2017) asked participants to complete questionnaires about their friendships, the support they received from their friends, and their overall happiness. They identified a relationship between friendship quality, support, and a person’s happiness.
Sandstrom & Dunn (2018) asked participants to keep daily diaries for two weeks, recording information about their social interactions and how they felt during those conversations. They found connections between daily social interactions and well-being.
But, let’s dig deeper. There are some fascinating findings in how friendships affect our level of happiness.
What are the negative effects of friendships?
Social relationships can influence a person’s risk of death similarly to well-known risk factors like smoking and alcohol consumption.
Let me say that again. Your relationship with others can have the risk of you dying as you being addicated to smoking and alcohol.
Even clearer — who you have friendships with can kill you.
So, yes, you have all the permission in the world to let go of toxic friendships.
Good social connections are crucial not only for happiness but also to your health and wellness. There’s a direct connection.
Now, remember the friendship I mentioned earlier? Relationships with both positive and negative aspects, or “ambivalent social ties,” can be more harmful to a person’s well-being than purely negative relationships, because of the level of uncertainty and stress they create.
This understanding validates why that friendship was so confusing for me and why letting go of it felt so much better.
You don’t need a lot of friends to be just a little bit happier.
According to the research, the quality of friendships is more important than the quantity for a person’s happiness.
Having a few close, supportive friends has a greater impact on happiness than having many friends without deep connections.
And daily social interactions, even small ones, can affect a person’s well-being.
Simple everyday interactions, such as chatting with a neighbor or a friendly cashier, can contribute to your overall happiness.
The Just a Little Bit Happier project is all about taking into account the findings from these studies and giving practical steps to improve your happiness and emotional wellness. So, let’s do it.
7 Tips for Becoming Happier Through Positive Friendships
Prioritize quality over quantity in your friendships. Focus on building a few deep, meaningful connections rather than maintaining many superficial friendships.
Evaluate your social circle and identify any toxic or ambivalent relationships in your life. Consider whether it’s worth maintaining them or if it’s better to distance yourself from them.
Be open to new connections by placing yourself in places where you can meet new people and form new friendships.
Engage in everyday interactions like chatting with neighbors, coworkers, or even the cashier at your local store. These small, positive interactions can contribute to your happiness.
Practice active listening by paying close attention and showing genuine interest in what others are saying. This can help improve the quality of your relationships.
Set healthy boundaries in your friendships to maintain your emotional well-being and prevent unnecessary stress.
Stay connected with friends and family that feel good to you, even if they live far away. Video calls, social media, and messaging can keep you connected and give you a way to give and receive support.
The takeaway from this article on the research of happiness and friendships is that the quality of our friendships has a significant impact on our happiness and well-being.
It’s ok to let go of negative friendships, and especially those that are hot and cold, and focus on building meaningful connections, setting healthy boundaries, and engaging in positive daily interactions. By doing this, you can make a change that makes you even just a little bit happier.