Friendship is integral to mental health

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If there’s one concept children have a stronger grasp on than adults, it’s friendship.

Before puberty, when the biggest problems in our lives were a dead Gameboy and the brussels sprouts we’d have to eat for dinner that night, friendship seemed to come naturally. With our narcissistic attitudes still perfectly intact, it was in our nature to show off anything and everything we deemed valuable in our lives. This inevitably led to those of us with a strong shared interest creating a bond that would likely go on to last years, if not decades. So, why does the simple practice become so challenging as the years add up?

In a society that’s become almost synonymous with social anxiety, many people reach a certain age and begin shutting themselves off to the world, only giving glimpses into the true content of their character. In a time when anything we do can become plastered permanently on the internet, and when we shape the behaviors of our lives based upon the filtered fragments we’re given of others’, it’s easy to understand what causes this behavior.

Despite what everyone else may see, we are each our own worst critic. As we become aware of our flaws and shortcomings, set against the gold standard lifestyle society shoves down our throats, many of us begin to bottle our entire identities inside, to avoid provoking scrutiny from people standing in the same pair of shoes as us. And when people are afraid to behave the way they feel inside, the chances of them attracting the kinds of people they want in their lives are dramatically reduced.

By the time we become adults, most of us will have developed many of the appetites and habits we’ll carry with us through the rest of our lives. Children, who still have so much of the world to experience, however, are much more open-minded creatures. Rather than waiting around for the specific type of person they’re best compatible with, most children are inclined to accept their circumstance and attempt to make lemonade from whatever fruit they can get their hands on.

The true spectacle of childhood friendships is the growth that’s shared as young minds develop and discover the world together. With a much more curious nature than adults, children are far more likely to jump at the opportunity to experience something new. Because they’ve also likely never faced any responsibility or severe consequences for their actions, most children adopt an almost entirely carefree approach towards life. This combination creates the foundation for a bond between friends that tends to break down any barriers of judgment we may perceive from the world. As we grow together, we begin to rely on one another, and our presence in each other’s lives begins to influence the people we grow into.

It’s no wonder why most of us eventually become set in our ways. As we enter into adulthood, most of our lives begin to be consumed by work and eventually family – should we choose to settle down – leaving us with much less time for luxuries like friendship and fun. With what little precious time we have to do what we please, the obvious choice is to spend it doing the things we’ve come to enjoy most. Seeking comfort in the familiar, however, obviously comes at the cost of new experiences. Without a classroom providing easy opportunities to meet like-minded people, the odds of most adults creating new genuine friendships is limited almost exclusively to the workplace. When it comes down to it, friendship is unfortunately something many of us will eventually outgrow and experience in significantly less frequent and spectacular fashion than when we were kids.

Friendship is an incredibly powerful connection when properly nurtured, with adequate time and energy coming from both sides. Having people in your life that you can trust to be the completely unfiltered version of yourself with allows you the incredibly valuable opportunity to experience happiness in its purest state. However, this kind of bond isn’t formed overnight, and it rarely lasts forever.

There’s no recreating the magical quality and unforgettable memories of childhood friendships, once you’ve crossed the threshold into adulthood. But that doesn’t mean your days of making friends have to come to an end. It’s true that friendship requires work. It’s also true, however, that authentic friendship delivers far more to be gained from than burdened by. So, channel your inner child and find some time to make another batch of lemonade from whatever fruit you can get your hands on, before you forget what it tastes like.

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