With a little help from our friends

quality-friends

A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities. William Arthur Ward

Whenever there’s a catastrophe in your life, who do you turn to?

Generally during times of adversity, we turn to our family and friends for support as we know and trust they have our best interests at heart while we rebuild ourselves. Despite all the hard times I have come up against in my time, I am so fortunate for the friendships I have made and the family I have. I never have to look far for someone to talk to; my social calendar is always full; human contact is never far away – I always have the phone glued to my ear or I’m texting. I can honestly step back and say my life right at this point in time, without doubt, is the best it has been in several years because of the people I currently have in it.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing and my friends can testify to that. I’ve had to weed the odd person out, and some of them were so deeply implanted that getting them out of my life was almost impossible. There were even times I actually believed poison ivy could grow into a rose bush – and when I was disappointed, my friends gave me that extra strength to dig that ivy out. What I learned? Some people genuinely want you to be unhappy. I can’t tell you how much trouble I had accepting such a simple fact: psychopaths exist. They walk among us, just like normal people. On several occasions it has taken me a while to snap out of the denial, stop trying to help the ivy in hope of roses and accept: it is what it is. Unfortunately I got hurt in the process.

Oscar Wilde said it best “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”.

So despite the immense pain I felt, I weeded my garden and in the process I started to accept that sometimes there are people who simply can’t be helped. So, although it was difficult to get rid of some of the weeds, it proved worth it because once the weeds were gone, there was so much space in the garden for more roses, daisies and sunflowers. This week Happiness Weekly looks at friendship and how it can inspire happiness – whether you’re sad or already happy – having friends to share your life with is essential to a happy existence.

Often I harp on about the best things in life being free and it would appear this philosophy is supported by the Daily Mail with their article Money DOESN’T buy happiness: how friends and family – not flashy possessions – bring true contentment. The article talks about the happiness that lies in gratifying relationships, and says research has shown a close circle of friends and family is most important for happiness and that material possessions such as iPhones, computers, wealth and owning a sports car do not provide the same level of contentment.

This Emotional Life said close, loving relationships are crucial to our wellbeing and happiness because they create a psychological space that makes us feel safe to explore and learn and it’s in that environment that we can build resources for times of stress and adversity. It’s like a squirrel stockpiling their acorns for the winter, because winter is sure to come, just as with times of adversity.

The Connection and Happiness article by This Emotional Life says belonging to something such as a group or community gives us a sense of identity. Plus, people with strong social connections have been found to have less stress-related health problems, are lower risk of mental illness and recover faster from trauma or illness.

Both introverts and extraverts are happier in the company of others than on their own. It makes us more pleasant, helpful and sociable. “So being around people makes us feel happier, and when we are happier we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral” of happiness,” This Emotional Life concluded.

Happiness is contagious according to Psychologist James H Fowler, who found that it benefits other people through three degrees of connection and the effects can last for a year. “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness,” James said.

Some people, such as Alex Roberts, believe having fewer friends is most important to your happiness because they are real friends. It’s our close relationships that gives us greater meaning and support. This supports that quality not quantity is most important when it comes to our friendships, which is why we must weed our gardens and have an overall clear out from time to time.

Others, such as this article found on the Huffington Post believe a larger circle of friends is the key to happiness. It’s been discovered that broad social networks contribute to our happiness by making us feel more connected and increasing our sense of belonging and self-esteem. Whatever it may be, it’s undisputed that with a little help from our friends, our overall happiness and wellbeing is improved.

But why?

Action for Happiness says research shows people who have strong relationships with a partner, family or close friends are happier, healthier and live longer than those who don’t. According to 32 Keys interacting amiably with friends and family is good for your health because it reduces stress. When we’re healthy we’re able to be happier because our worries and anxieties are reduced.

The Pursuit of Happiness talks about happiness according to Aristotle. According to the article, Aristotle recognised friendship as one of the most important virtues in achieving happiness – but not just any friendship, it was a particular type of friendship we needed to seek. The type of friendship he encouraged us to have is one “based on a person wishing the best for their friends regardless of utility of pleasure”. This type of friendship is long-lasting yet tough to obtain because it takes a lot of work to have complete and honourable friendships. It’s worth it though, as it brings us the most enjoyment by combining pleasure and integrity which brings our emotions and intellect the most fulfilment of any other friendship. For this reason, Aristotle would conclude we couldn’t have many friendships because of the amount of time and care that a virtuous friendship requires.

In more recent times Drake Baer has spoken about why our friendships shape our happiness, creativity and career saying the people we know “affect us in subtly major ways”. His reasons touch on the fact that our friendships broaden our perspective which encourages us to take new avenues and they continually shape our behaviour and ideas.

Whatever the size of your friendship circle, ensure your friends know you are grateful they are in your life. This post is dedicated to all my friends and family for their constant support, love and help with weeding the garden. I love you!

In what ways do your friendships evoke happiness in you?

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Happiness Weekly encourages readers to proactively work towards a successful, happy and secure existence. Just like happiness – Happiness Weekly is for everyone.

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