Social Support and Friendship
*This newsletter is intended to offer information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from those broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problem. Copyright 2018 Simmonds Publications: 550 La Jolla Blvd., 306, La Jolla, CA 92037
Good friendships depend less on who they are than on how they make us feel
Since 1985 the number of people who say they have no one to talk to has doubled. The lack of social contacts and social supports, despite our technological advances over the past decades, is one of the downsides to the huge transformations that have taken place in our society. Despite the advent of email and mobile phones, people today have fewer meaningful social contacts than they had in the past. We have traded our face-to-face contacts for technological forms of communication. We tend to drive alone, work alone, eat alone, and love along more than we did in the past years. Our public presentation may reflect less about who we are on the inside than on our ability to conform to the latest look that we pick up from the all-pervasive media. We go to the gym and work out alone to the beats stored in our devices. We go for coffee and immerse ourselves in our laptops. And we don’t talk to strangers, who may, as many believe, pose a danger to us. Yes, we’ve changed. Friendships are harder to come by. It is more difficult these days to get to know who another person really is- or for them to get to know who we are.
Research studies have shown repeatedly that friendship and social support systems have many psychological benefits. Social support cuts off the dysfunctional cycle of stress, which produces physiological responses such as increased heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Just having another person nearby will reduce stress when people perform difficult tasks. And it also takes a load off when you need help in doing some of your tasks of the day- certainly a stress reducer.
Spending time with a good, supportive friend will calm us and uplift our mood. We feel better when we talk things through with a trusted friend. When we hear ourselves talk, we can often get to the root of what is bothering us without the listener’s having to say a word. Social support validates us. We don’t feel so alone when there is a trusted friend nearby to say that the same things have happened to them- or merely says, “I understand.” Social connections help us to feel that we’re part of a larger whole. When we have a supportive social network, we can face life’s everyday problems with the feeling that we have the backing of others who care about us.