School is back in session and no parent wants to hear their child say, "I just don't have any friends." Studies show that friendships can have a major impact on a person's health and well-being. Friends boost one's happiness and help reduce stress. Friends can help celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and increase a sense of belonging and purpose. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index.
Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections. Good friends help improve self-confidence and self-worth. They can help one cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or the death of a loved one. Good friends can even encourage change in unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Developing and maintaining friendships requires time and work. Friendships develop when people have similar interests and lifestyles. It is important to know, however, that who a person hangs out with can have two different effects. Friends can either energize those around them or they can drain the life right out of them. Friends can encourage or discourage. Friends can add happiness to life, or they can create misery. Spending all your time with the wrong people will prevent the right people from coming around. Don't hang with those who are negative, who drag you down, or have no vision. If they are going nowhere, you will go nowhere. Find friends going the same way you are going. Your friend's qualities, good or bad, will rub off on you.
A goal in friendship is to have someone to share life adventures with and to be happy in the process. In studying the attributes that can make an acquaintance a good friend, several important qualities are evident.
A friend should be a person who is admired. Friendships develop because a person is fun to be around. Is that friend happy, honest, a person of integrity and morality? Do others speak highly of the person?
A friend desires to give and to help. Watch out for those people who only take or who give only for what they can get in return.
A friend will protect you. Gossip is destructive. A friend will not talk about you behind your back, nor will they listen to idle gossip about you without standing up for you. Friends are loyal. They should enrich the lives of others around them.
A friend is someone to whom you can tell your troubles. They will listen with a sympathetic ear without judgment. They offer comfort when needed.
Friends are an encouragement to each other. They make you feel better. Friends are each other's best cheerleaders. They give each other direction and can offer a different perspective about events and decisions that are made.
What about you? Are you that friend someone is looking for? Does the atmosphere brighten when you encounter friends? Desire to develop the traits people look for in a friend. Be the giver in a friend relationship. Giving not only helps them, but it puts the giver in a position to receive. Protect friends in every aspect. Be a loyal, nonjudgmental friend who makes sacrifices where your friends are concerned. Listen to a friend's hurts and sympathize with them, offering sound advice or a shoulder when needed.
Don't sit around waiting for friends to find you. Remember, to have a friend, you must be a friend. Go search for that person who needs to be your friend. Be the one with a positive influence on others. It's never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. The meetings are open to the public, and guests are welcome. For more information, call the Extension office at 623-6841 or email Alex Dykes at [email protected].
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC, call 623-6841 or email Alison Crane, family and consumer sciences agent, at [email protected]. Follow Alison on Facebook @garlandEGF and @Garland FCS, and EHC on Facebook @GarlandCountyEHC.
There are several 4-H Clubs for Garland County youths who are 5 to 19 years old. For information about Garland County 4-H Club membership or program benefits, contact Carol Ann McAfee, family and consumer sciences agent, at the Extension office, call 501-623-6841, or email [email protected]. More information is available at http://www.uaex.edu/garland.