Good Friends Are the Trees That Shelter You From the Storms

Do friendships influence your health? To what extent do they affect your well-being? Once again, popular wisdom paves the way for scientific knowledge in answering these questions.
Good Friends Are the Trees That Shelter You From the Storms
María Vélez

Written and verified by the psychologist María Vélez.

Last update: 31 October, 2023

It’s said that those who surround themselves with good company and maintain healthy relationships enjoy greater well-being. For decades, researchers have been interested in knowing how much truth there is in this statement. Today, we can say that science has gathered enough evidence to consider it a fact.

In fact, there’s a multitude of studies exploring the benefits of having quality friendships. In this article, we’ll compile some of the most interesting findings about how a good circle of friends is beneficial for your physical and mental health, and even your work life.

Friends smiling and hugging

Good friends are the trees that shelter you from the storms

All trees aren’t the same. Some are longer-lasting, some give more oxygen, while others provide more resistant materials or bear tastier fruits. The same happens with people and, therefore, friendships. The shade and shelter they can give you depend on their characteristics and how they relate to and behave with you.

According to expert, Shasta Nelson, there are three qualities that make a good friend:

  • Vulnerability. Being honest and critical of their own mistakes provides an environment in which you, as their friend, can open up and show yourself as you really are.
  • Consistency. Good friends can be many things, but most of all they’re people who are always there. Indeed, no matter how much time passes, good friends will be there whenever you need them.
  • Positivity. Good friends are there to pick you up when you fall or make you laugh when you’re having a bad day. They support you and encourage you in everything you set out to do. Indeed, they contribute good and genuine elements to your life.

With this perfect recipe, surrounding yourself with quality people would undoubtedly be one of the greatest sources of health and happiness. However, is this really the case? To what extent do the people around you affect your life and your deepest well-being?

What science claims

Science has confirmed that quality relationships have a great impact on your life at different levels. Here are some of the most interesting findings in this regard.

Quality is more important than quantity

Many people think that having a large number of friends is synonymous with personal and social success. However, in reality, on average, people have between three and five close friends, a wider circle of around ten-15,  and a network of approximately 100-150 acquaintances. Does this mean that the majority of the population is unsuccessful or unhappy

As a matter of fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Science has proven that the quality of a personal relationship is linked with greater well-being. It’s even been connected to better physical health. More specifically, with lower levels of blood pressure, BMI, and risk of diabetes. In short,  good friendships are as essential as diet and physical exercise.

With regard to quantity, it’s the frequency with which you interact with your trusted friends that really affects your health. In fact, a study has found that the more social interactions we have, the less depressive feelings we suffer.

Healthier habits

Having healthy friendships benefits your health because, without really realizing it, you tend to adopt the habits of those around you. This might be easier to understand from the opposite point of view.

For example, when your circle is made up of people with more depressive or negative thoughts or even substance-abusing behavior, you’re more likely to adopt them too.

In addition, some studies have found that friendships help us resist temptation and that this is something that we unconsciously look for in them.

For instance, if you have a low level of self-control, you’ll turn to people around you who possess greater determination and willpower. Consequently, you’ll have people with resources to reach out to when you need a little extra help or support.

Money doesn’t buy you happiness, friendship does

Science has confirmed that good friendships are number one on the list of what brings us happiness. Not money, not fame, and not beauty.

This was affirmed in a longitudinal study that began in 1939 and was implemented for 80 years. For this reason, it’s one of the most important studies that have been conducted on happiness throughout life.

Its findings were surprisingly simple. The only factor that was related to the level of happiness of the more than 500 participants was the quality of their personal relationships.

In fact, close friendships, family connections, and dating relationships far outnumbered socioeconomic status, beauty, intelligence, fame, or fortune.

More motivation and better performance

As we suggested earlier, science has also proven whether good friendships affect work and academic performance. In a study conducted with university students, they found that those who related to classmates with better grades also saw their own performance improve.

The same can happen if you have good colleagues. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that those who had good friends at work put in more effort and achieved better results. In addition, they were able to take on greater responsibilities.

Two female co-workers talking about giving and receiving advice

Tips to strengthen your friendships

These have been some of the most important findings in this area, certainly enough to know that having good friends around you improves your well-being. So what can you do to strengthen your relationships?

  • If you need new friends, get out of your comfort zone. Join sports teams, look for groups with similar hobbies, or ask acquaintances to introduce you to their friends.
  • Find common interests. Talking and finding things in common is essential if you want to maintain what unites you. Show curiosity and interest in your friends’ concerns. This will create trust and rapprochement.
  • Nourish your friendships daily and act in a reciprocal way. Friendships are gradually cultivated by both parties, so don’t forget to think about your friends and respond to them by giving them back what they need.

Be the tree that offers shelter to your friends, just as they do for you.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bruine de Bruin, W., Parker, A. M., & Strough, J. (2020). Age differences in reported social networks and well-being. Psychology and Aging, 35(2), 159–168.
  • Shea, C. T., Davisson, E. K., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2013). Riding Other People’s Coattails: Individuals With Low Self-Control Value Self-Control in Other People. Psychological Science24(6), 1031–1036.
  • Dokuka S., Valeeva D., Yudkevich M. (2015) Koevolyutsiya sotsial’nykh setey i akademicheskikh dostizheniy studentov [Co-Evolution of Social Networks and Student Performance]. Voprosy obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, 3, 44-65.
  • Park, S. (2019).Socializing at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Manufacturing Workers.American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 11(3), 424-55.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.