The Surprising Power of Adult Friendships

health well-being work/life balance

One week ago today, my husband and I were just getting back from a few days spent in Austin, Texas with two of our dear friends from college.

Getting away isn’t easy for us. Between our full-time work and two kids still at home, it’s pretty challenging to find coverage for our children and to take a pause (at least mostly) from our work responsibilities. 

(I did end up giving a client presentation from our friends’ home office! I’m like a turtle; I carry my office on my back in my backpack.)

My husband and I enjoyed riding around beautiful Hill Country, taking a five-mile walk in the beautiful 80 degree weather (when it was 45 and rainy at home in Minnesota), tasting wines from just a few of the 80 wineries in the area, and, most importantly, ending each day with hours of conversation in our friends’ outdoor hot tub until our skin was pruny and we were falling asleep sitting upright. 

In our fast-paced, adult lives, it's all too easy to let our friendships take a backseat. Career demands, family responsibilities, and countless other obligations can leave little time for social connections. However, the value of adult friendships shouldn’t be underestimated. These relationships play a pivotal role in enhancing our social well-being and safeguarding our mental health.

Research consistently showthat having close friendships in adulthood has a profound impact on our overall well-being. 

An article in the Journal of Lifestyle Medicine called “The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness” sites a study that showed “people with strong social ties were three times less likely to die than those who were less connected to others.” So, taking the time to be with friends isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity.

Our mental health, too, is intricately tied to the quality of our friendships. Strong social support has been found to be a protective factor against the development of mental health issues. Spending time with friends provides an outlet for stress, anxiety, and depression, allowing us to share our burdens and find solace in trusted companions.

But how do we develop and maintain adult friendships when our lives are consumed by work and other responsibilities? Here are some practical tips:

Prioritize Friendship: Just as you would schedule work meetings or family activities, set aside time for your friends. Make it a non-negotiable part of your routine.

Quality Over Quantity: You don't need a vast network of friends. A few close, dependable friends can provide the emotional support you need. Focus on nurturing these relationships.

Utilize Technology: In the digital age, you can stay connected even when you're physically apart. Regular video chats, text messages, and social media interactions can help you bridge the gap.

Combine Activities: If you're pressed for time, consider combining socializing with other commitments. For example, go for a run or gym session with a friend instead of doing it alone.

Join Groups or Clubs: Pursue your hobbies and interests through clubs or groups. This not only offers an opportunity to meet like-minded people but also ensures you're doing something you enjoy.

Be a Good Friend: Don't just expect support; offer it. Listen, empathize, and be there for your friends, and they're more likely to reciprocate.

Plan in Advance: Plan get-togethers well in advance. This reduces the likelihood of last-minute cancellations due to competing priorities.

The statistics and research underscore what many of us intuitively understand: adult friendships are crucial to our social well-being and mental health. 

I was a Girl Scout for years growing up and a Girl Scout leader when my daughters were younger. I’ve sung these familiar words dozens and dozens of times, and they are still true:

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other’s gold.

Make an effort to cherish and nurture your friendships. The time we invest in our friends is an investment in our own happiness and well-being.