Rising Voices Award winner badge.

Why friends are important

Dec 1, 2020 3:00 PM

Photo Essays

Friends are important. From very early on in my life, I’ve had trouble socializing. Making friends always felt like a horrifying thing to do. It has always felt right to be alone and to be comfortable within my own space. That’s the sneakiness of anxiety and depression — you become numb to the damage you inflict on your social battery. You struggle to leave your home. I purposely lie and make up excuses to avoid going out with people who want to see me. My friends recognize that I may not want to make the decisions that I ultimately end up making, so they call me out. Friends are important.

In a paper published last month in the Society for Research in Child Development, a team of researchers found that having a childhood best friend can play a significant role in a person’s mental health well into adulthood. Angel has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. We may be totally different people, but we continuously support each other in everything we do. He supported me without a second thought when I came out, and has accompanied me to every Boston Pride celebration every year since. He’s also been a main focus and test subject for the majority of my photography journey.

Having such close friends has proven that I'm not alone. Everyone struggles and puts up a mask to make it seem otherwise. It causes an intense feeling of belonging when you start to see the wraps that people entrap themselves in unravel. Of course, we know that we may not know every deep and dark secret about someone, but it makes your heart ache to know you could be trusted with such precious or sensitive information. Karyn Hall, a dialectical behavior therapist, says in an article for “Psychology Today” that, “A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health and happiness.”

Friends let you speak your mind and respond with the, sometimes brutal, honest truth. In a 2014 “HuffPost” article, Dr. Robert Rowney, a certified psychiatrist, says that "Honesty isn’t always an easy thing, but it’s important to your bond… Swallowing that pill and being the best friend you can by being open with them always works out better." Honesty forces you to be vulnerable and face the issues that you’ve been pushing aside, which causes them to spill into the light. A 2008 study published in the “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology” found that having a friend by your side can even make a hill appear less steep.

Friendship should not know time. I can go days without talking to my close friends and pick up a conversation or make plans like we were just talking yesterday. I make friends a priority. If I make plans with friends, I try my hardest to hold myself accountable.

Being around friends is a mood-booster even if you hadn't planned on it being one. Making a new friend can feel as good as hanging with friends you’ve had for years. It gives you a sense of acceptance.

Before you can give away your love and friendship to others, you must learn to love yourself and give yourself the attention that your mind and body need. I still have my moments where I may not love myself, and my friends have respected that and vice versa. Friends understand, and a lot of them are there to help you through your vices. That being said, it shouldn’t fall on friends every time you have an issue. Put yourself first, learn to communicate well and learn to take care of yourself before others.

You know the age old saying, a dog is a man’s best friend. Turns out that there's science backing that! Dogs are also a person's best wingman! In a study conducted by the University of Western Australia, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, “Dog owners, and more specifically, those who walked their dogs, were also far more likely to have reported befriending someone they met through a pet-related connection or getting social support from them.” Next time you're walking your four-legged friend or even showing off any of your other companions remember that they’re helping you make some new friends!