From childhood to the last stage of the life cycle, friends play an essential part in people’s daily lives. Despite the difficulties that trusting others may pose in some cases, numerous studies have found the beneficial effects of forming this type of bond. Friendship refers to the close bond formed between two people or a group. This type of relationship is usually based on trust, affection, loyalty, sympathy, and respect that the members of the relationship reciprocally give to each other. Friendship is a fundamental component of life that also promotes mental health. It is undoubtedly one of the most significant emotional relationships that one can have. In some literary books, authors have highlighted the importance of friendship, which can be seen in both old books like „Don Quixote” and more modern ones like the Harry Potter series. Many movies have also made friendship the main component, such as „Stand by Me,” the „Toy Story” saga, „Cinema Paradiso,” or TV series like „The Big Bang Theory” or „How I Met Your Mother.” Although, undoubtedly, the best relationships are the real ones. Why is Having Friends so Important? Humans are social beings, and from birth, we need the care and affection of others to survive. As we grow, we become part of different groups and choose who we want to spend our free time with. Having friends fosters a sense of belonging to these groups, which provides great emotional value to individuals. Feeling integrated in our immediate environment is often directly related to increased self-esteem and motivation. In addition, being able to trust your friends and share intimate and private information with them, in most cases, contributes to stress relief. Feeling heard, understood, and loved is often a good „pain reliever” for emotional pain. Conversely, perceiving that the other person in the relationship shares their secrets, concerns, achievements, emotions, etc., can make you feel valued and loved, improving the self-concept of the person listening. It should be mentioned in this section that this benefit occurs in functional friendships, where each person, in addition to this bond, has their own space and does not feel dependent on the other person. Being able to trust a friend also helps to overcome difficult situations that a person may be experiencing, such as grief, a breakup, the loss of a job, etc. Being able to share difficult moments with someone who supports and encourages you is therapeutic and creates a deeper connection. Friends can help you change harmful lifestyle habits. Several studies have shown that, in many cases, friends are the ones who motivate change in unhealthy habits, such as quitting drinking or smoking, exercising more, etc. A friend who cares about your health can help raise awareness in someone who may not realize it themselves. It also serves as a source of motivation to start an action plan together, such as going out to exercise. It is also true that the influence a friend can have can be so great that, at times, it can negatively affect and encourage behaviors that one may not want. This mainly occurs in adolescence, but also in childhood, and to a lesser extent in adulthood and old age. Returning to the positive side, the feeling of unconditional acceptance generates well-being. This refers to being able to feel like yourself in your truest essence, without hiding any characteristics of your personality that you think others may not like. Some studies suggest that a strong emotional bond of friendship makes it easier for the other person to express everything they feel, both cognitively and emotionally, which can sometimes be difficult to do in a romantic or even familial relationship. Friends at Each Stage of Life Friendships are important at every stage of life, from childhood to old age. It is well known that children, from a very young age, begin to forge the foundations of friendship: at daycare, at the park, in their community, etc. By sharing experiences, moments, and even toys, young children begin to understand the basics of this essential bond in life. It should be mentioned in this section the importance of allowing children to choose their friends and learn to connect with others. In some cases, parents and other caregivers may „choose” their children’s friends either because they believe they may be „good influences” or because they are friends’ children or simply because they have affinity with certain children. However, it is essential for the child to have their own space and be able to decide who they want to play with. Nevertheless, it is crucial to be able to detect situations where a child is suffering due to certain relationships. For example, this can happen in cases of bullying, in which case the involvement of parents and other caregivers is necessary to eradicate the situation. In adolescence, relationships with friends become very significant and intense. In certain cases, this stage can be complicated, as hormonal changes, conflicts with primary attachment figures, the development of formal operational thinking (abstract thinking level), and the emergence of first romantic relationships occur. With all these biological, cognitive, emotional, and social changes that a person experiences during their adolescent years, having friends as support becomes significantly important. As Jane Austen wrote in 1798 in the book „Northanger Abbey,” friendship is the best balm for the wounds caused by unrequited love. In other stages of life, it is equally important to establish and maintain friendly relationships for all the aforementioned benefits. While it is true that new friendships are formed throughout life, it becomes more challenging as individuals progress through stages, primarily due to two factors: there is less free time available, and people become „more selective” when it comes to connecting. Making Friends in Today’s Society Besides the mentioned difficulties, it is worth mentioning the obstacles we can encounter in making friends given the type of society we live in. These obstacles affect the ability to make friends at any stage of life. Thanks to the development of some online applications, it is very easy to communicate with those who are far away, eliminating certain communication barriers with those who live far from us. However, these same applications can make it more challenging to establish deeper bonds of friendship with those who are closer to us. Especially during adolescence, new technologies can cause serious problems in the interaction among young people. According to sociologist Zygmunt Bauman: In liquid modernity, everything is unstable: love, work, politics, and friendship. The concept of „liquid modernity” refers to the changing, volatile, and unstable state of today’s society, where we experience many changes in a short period. Regarding friendly bonds, it can be effortless to have many „friends” on social networks like Facebook or „followers” on other platforms like Instagram. However, through these means of communication, it is difficult to convey „human warmth” or establish a real bond. To conclude, given all the mentioned benefits, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of forming quality and meaningful friendships…
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