National Friendship Day was originally founded by Hallmark in 1919. It was intended to be a day for people to celebrate their friendship by sending each other cards and in 1998 Winnie the Pooh was named the world’s Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations, and on April 2011 the United Nations officially the first Sunday of August as International Friendship Day. Friendship is an incredible and very important aspect of life. Friendships whether new or old, build bonds through trust, companionship, loyalty, comfort, and support. Friendship also protects our mental health by building our capacity to deal with challenging situations. We often must rely on our friends to help us through troubled times, whether we are battling with a mental health illness or a substance abuse disorder, true friendship can help us overcome some of the toughest battles of our lives. Healthy and thriving friendships have a surplus of benefits including increased feelings of belonging, a sense of purpose, increase levels of happiness, reduced levels of stress, improved self-esteem and confidence. While positive and healthy friendships can help you through traumatic events and can help you quit bad habits, toxic and unhealthy friendships and leave you feeling drained, uneasy, and stressed which can have a negative effect on your mental health and or sobriety. Friendships are tied to almost every aspect of your life including your personal life, professional life, and social life. So how can we keep our friendships healthy and thriving, especially when we are going through difficult times?
Speaking the truth, regardless of the potential consequences is an important aspect of maintaining a friendship. Regardless if you are battling severe anxiety, depression or a substance abuse disorder, coming clean about your emotions and feelings to a friend can be the first initial step to not only strengthening your bond with your friend but also allowing your friend to help you with your treatment plan. When we become vulnerable with our friends we are basically telling them, “I trust you”.
Often times when we are going through difficult times, we want to shut down and keep everything inside. However, communicating thoughts and emotions to a trusted friend can help alleviate our own anxiety while allowing a friend to potentially give sound advice. Having an open line of communication is important for friendships to thrive as talking about difficult topics can bring a sense of trust and closeness that would most likely not result from surface level conversations that we have with our acquaintances.
Strong friendships take time as bonds must develop and life events must happen for friends to become close. It is important to have patience with friends as sometimes emotions can run high and hurtful words can be said in trying times. Practicing patience with friends (and everyone in general) can make you a more patient person. Maybe your friend is going through a trying time and needs time to open up to you.
Strong friendships develop from a solid foundation of trust, meaning that honesty and kindness is always the root of this relationship. It is important for your friends to trust you and for you to trust them. Trust can be established over time and can be broken in an instant. Lying, cheating, shaming, stealing and talking behind your friend’s back is one way to ruin any trust that has been built up over time.
Friendships do not happen overnight and if you are struggling with a mental health disorder or a substance abuse disorder; it may take time before you feel comfortable opening up to a friend about your journey, but once the journey of long-lasting friendship has begun, you will notice that your life is truly enriched.
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
— Audrey Hepburn
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and spends most of her free time empowering other women to get outside into the backcountry.