As the saying goes, “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” Are you spending your time with the right people? This is a tough question, because no one wants to believe that their friends may be a negative influence. That’s why we should “choose our friends carefully.”
Your friends are a reflection of you. The people we choose to be around shape our experiences — they influence the way we think, act, see the world and, live our lives. Whether we’re fully conscious of it or not, the people we call our “friends,” frame our personal reality — they are a direct reflection of who we are today, and thus, will affect the person we will become tomorrow.
Can our friends be harming us?
The answer is of course, yes. Peer pressure is very real and it doesn’t end once we become adults. If we let them, our friends can lead us astray, taking us off our path in life.
Consider this scenario:
You want to pursue a certain career path and you want to live a clean, healthy life. You tell yourself you’ll be focused, positive and that you’ll eat healthy, exercise and take good care of your mental and physical health. But, you have these friends who aren’t exactly settled. They love to party, aren’t focused and they don’t have direction in life. If you spend your time with these friends, they’ll most likely influence you — they may not do it with intention, but if you’re not careful, you’ll get sucked into their way of life. Flash-forward 10 years and you’ve done nothing and your hopes and dreams have fallen to the wayside — you don’t have a career, your diet is atrocious and you’ve aged faster than you should have, due to the late nights and “fun times.”
That won’t happen to me
Countless people have falsely believed that their “friends” would never negatively influence them — I mean they’re your friends and you love them, right? So how could they ever make you do things you didn’t want to do? In reality, we allow the negative influence because we chose them as our friends and put them ahead of our own personal goals and dreams.
When it comes to our personal happiness, we often focus on physical health as being an integral contributor to that happiness. We tell ourselves we’ll eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, exercise and live a vigorous life. Research has proven that many health behaviors are contagious and that our social networks (both in-person and online), can actually have a direct impact on things like our stress level, weight , lifestyle choices and our overall happiness.
Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones of Happiness,” has carefully studied the life-habits of people who live in what he calls “blue zones” — regions of the world where people tend to live far longer than the average lifespan of everyone else. What Dan Buettner has noticed, is that in those “blue zones,” positive friendships are a very common theme.
“Friends can exert a measurable and ongoing influence on your health behaviors in a way that a diet never can.” – Dan Buettner
‘Stack the Deck’ with Happy Friends
Your social network is a critical component of happiness. Numerous studies have highlighted the dangers that come with isolation and loneliness, including depression, poor health and even thoughts of suicide. To be sure, friends are important. But it’s also important to choose them wisely, Buettner said.
“A lot of us just blunder into our five best friends. They’re left over from childhood, or we met them in college, or we happened to work with them one day,” he said.
Buettner suggested taking a “cold-eyed” inventory of friendships. Perhaps it’s time to kick negative people out of your circle.
“I would never tell you to dump your old friends, but I will tell you that loneliness is contagious, unhappiness is contagious, bad health behaviors — they’re all measurably contagious. So, one of the best things you can do to stack your deck in favor of happiness is to proactively bring happy people into your network. And not just happy [ones]. It has to be people who care about you.”
For every new happy person you add to your network, your own chance of happiness increases by 15%.
“Instead of focusing on some self-help course, go out and think about who you know and proactively befriend them,” he said. “That’s one domain you can control.” – National Geographic, journalist Dan Buettner and author of The Blue Zones of Happiness
Show me your friends
My chief takeaway is that we choose our friends and we choose who we spend our time with and whether we’re conscious of it or not, they do influence us. That influence doesn’t have to be a Machiavellian plot against us — it’s more like osmosis, in that we tend to mirror the people we spend the most time with.
If those “friends” are holding us back and taking us off our true path in life, those relationships are harming our mental and physical health. I don’t advocate ditching friendships because that’s a personal choice. But if we want to live a positive, fulfilled life, we need to make sure the odds are in our favor — if social connections are holding us back, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate those relationships and to find ones that uplift and sustain us.
“Stay positive and happy. Work hard and don’t give up hope. Be open to criticism and keep learning. Surround yourself with happy, warm and genuine people.” – Tena Desae
“You should feel beautiful and you should feel safe. What you surround yourself with should bring you peace of mind and peace of spirit.” – Stacy London