Why maintaining an active social life is essential for your mental well-being

Friendship is a deeply-rooted and essential part of human life. Supplied image.

Friendship is a deeply-rooted and essential part of human life. Supplied image.

Published Apr 10, 2024


With many people leading busy lifestyles, they are unable to spend adequate time with friends.

But experts have warned that going without these relationships for an extended period of time could lead to a range of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Healthcare provider Affinity Health has stressed that friendship is a deeply-rooted and essential part of human life.

“From childhood to old age, the bonds we form with friends shape our experiences, provide support during difficult times and contribute significantly to our overall well-being,” said CEO Murray Hewlett.

While friendships offer numerous benefits, one aspect that often goes under-appreciated is their positive impact on our mental health.

Hewlett has listed the following reasons why quality time with friends is essential to our mental health:

1. Social connection

Studies have shown that engaging in social activities and maintaining a network of close friends can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, Hewlett said.

He said these interactions trigger the release of oxytocin - often called the love or cuddle hormone - which enhances feelings of trust and bonding.

2. Stress reduction

Having friends by your side can be incredibly valuable, especially during stressful periods.

“Spending time with them allows you to share your concerns, vent your frustrations and seek advice or comfort,” Hewlett said.

Laughter, in particular, has been shown to have therapeutic effects, releasing endorphins and reducing stress hormones like cortisol.

3. Emotional support

Hewlett believes that friends can provide valuable emotional support by offering a listening ear, empathy and understanding.

In addition, he believes that feeling heard and understood by them can boost self-esteem and self-worth.

“Knowing that you have people who genuinely care about your well-being and are willing to stand by you in difficult times can provide security and reduce feelings of hopelessness and despair.”

4. Boosting self-esteem and confidence

Trust, respect, and mutual support are the foundations of healthy friendships, and being a part of such relationships maintains a good self-image.

Hewlett added that spending time with friends, who appreciate and value you for who you are, fosters a sense of self-worth and self-assurance.

“They can serve as mirrors, reflecting on your strengths, accomplishments and positive qualities,” he said.

“Their encouragement and affirmation can boost your confidence and help you tackle life's challenges with greater self-belief.”

5. Encouraging healthy habits

Hewlett believes that people in your life who prioritise physical and mental well-being may encourage you to adopt healthier practices.

“One way to make exercise more fun and stay motivated is by joining group fitness activities with friends.

“They may introduce you to mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga, which can positively impact your mental health.”

6. Sense of purpose and fulfilment

Planning social outings, celebrating milestones and being part of each other's lives contribute to a feeling of meaning and connectedness.

Hewlett added that sharing experiences and creating memories with loved ones add depth and richness to your life, which also enhances your happiness and contentment.

7. Coping with life transitions

Whether starting a new job, moving to a new city, getting married or going through a difficult breakup, friends are crucial in helping you navigate these transitions.

Hewlett said that they provide support, guidance and stability during times of change.

Tips on how to make new friends

The Affinity Health CEO believes that it's worth noting that friendships can extend beyond the people already in your social circle.

“Consider people you've met – even if just briefly – who left an effect on you.”

To expand your social circle and enhance existing relationships, he suggested considering the following strategies:

  • Keep in touch with people you've worked with or studied with.
  • Reconnect with former acquaintances.
  • Reach out to people you've met on social occasions.
  • Get to know your neighbours.
  • Participate in community events. Look for organisations or clubs that meet to discuss a common interest or activity.
  • Volunteer your time at a hospital, house of church, museum, community centre, charitable organisation or another organisation.
  • Say yes when asked to a social event.
  • Take up a new hobby.

Hewlett suggested participating in a class at a local gym, senior centre or community fitness centre.

  • Join a faith-based organisation.
  • Take advantage of new member activities and get-to-know-you events.
  • Take your children or pets outside.
  • Chat with members of your community who are out and about or go to a local park and start a chat.
  • Have a good attitude

You may not make friends with everyone you meet, but being friendly will help you enhance your connections.