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Four Ways to Recognize Healthy Friendships

We all have friends. That’s a safe assumption. If you don’t, then read last week’s article to see why you need them! Here’s the thing, though: how do you know whether or not the friendship is healthy for both of you? Or maybe it’s healthy for one of you and not the other. I have four tips to help the super-sleuth in you figure out if the friendships you have positively impact your life. Also, look to see if you convey these attributes to friends. It’s just as rewarding to them as it’ll be for you.

1. Good Friends are Encouraging

It’s part of human nature to be overly negative in our self-criticism. This is where healthy friendships come in to play. High quality friends encourage rather than discourage you. They believe in you and want to see you succeed. When you look in the mirror and see imperfections, friends will beg to differ. When you fail at something, a good friend is there to pick you back up and reassure you things aren’t as bad as you think. They are your cheerleader. C S Lewis was this to J R RTolkein. Tolkein was known to be a procrastinator. It was Lewis who continued to regularly encourage him in his writings. What’s the result? Oh, just a little set of books called The Lord of the Rings! A good friend is attentive to you. Even just the presence of a friend has been shown in studies to lower stress levels. I call that front-porch-sitting. It’s just being there with someone. It encourages them more than you think.

2. Good Friends are Supportive

High quality friends support each other unconditionally – no matter what’s going on. This unconditional support then gives the recipient the freedom to grow, change and just flat out be himself. They make time for you. They really listen when you’re talking! They’re not (most of the time) just waiting for you to finish talking so they can talk! They flat out make your friendship a priority – even as other important things add on to their lives like marriage, kids, jobs and distance. Think about the friends in your life who give you this gracious, undeserved support (and think about if you’re this way with friends). These are the folks you need to stick with like casserole to the bottom of an ungreased dish!

3. Good Friends Give You Honest Feedback

We all have friends like this…and we need them! A good friend will give you honest feedback, even if you don’t want to hear it. Be wary of friends who only feed you the positive stuff. They’re temptingly easy to be around but you need companions who will tell you how it is. Marriage usually is a great example. Don’t ask your spouse a honest question if you don’t want an honest answer! One aspect of a healthy marriage is that it tends to show us what a healthy friendship looks like.

4. Good Friends Ask for Help

I was in a real tight the other day and needed some help. I knew exactly who to call. I knew this friend, unless he was on his deathbed (well, probably even on his deathbed), would drive over and help unconditionally. Asking a friend for help as well as unconditionally supporting a friend in need both allow a friendship to grow and thus benefit your health long term. To ask for help is to show vulnerability and there’s personal and relational growth in that. I wouldn’t trade this friend for a brand newfour-wheeler or even a handful of praline-crusted pecans! Even if you don’t need it, if a friend offers to help you with something, let them. It will benefit both of you.

A good friend makes us want to be a better person. Dave Matthews, a popular singer/songwriter, once explained that he was so close to his sister that they always jokingly said God switched their hearts at birth. This is what a high-quality friendship looks like. I’m not trying to get all mushy on you – I’m just telling you how it is. Be that friend to someone and let them be that friend to you. Trust me, the overall health for each of you will be your long-term reward!

Dr. Thomas is a board-certified physician who operates Complete Health Integrative Wellness Clinic and Thomas Urology Clinic in Starkville, Mississippi.

This blog post is for informational purposes only and is, under no circumstances, intended to constitute medical advice or to create or continue a physician-patient relationship. If you have a medical emergency, you should immediately seek care from your nearest emergency room, and if you have specific health questions, you should consult your own physician.

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