How “finding your tribe” can help improve your mental health

I moved to a new city far away from the friends and family
who had always surrounded me for graduate school. It was supposed to be an
exciting new time in my life, but I was desperately lonely.

Between my school course workload and the two part-time jobs
I worked, I didn’t have much time for a social life. I lived off-campus, so
making friends through proximity wasn’t an option.

I still clearly remember the day I met the new editing
assistant at my work. She asked me questions about my life and genuinely
listened to the answers which I gave. I knew from our first conversation that I
wasn’t alone anymore.

That’s what it’s like when you meet your tribe. A lot of
people will never really see you, and some people will only notice you. Others
will genuinely pursue friendships with you — and when you find those people,
you’ll know you’ve found your tribe.

Does having a good friend group improve your mental health?
Absolutely. Here are five ways solid friendships can improve your mental
health:

 

Friends Remind You of Reality

Remember when you failed that exam and thought your life was
over?

Healthy friendships give you a firmer grasp on reality.
Listening to other people’s experiences will put
your struggles into perspective
and bring you hope.  Your problems are genuine, but they aren’t
the whole picture. Sharing life with others brings many reminders that life is
much bigger than a poor grade or a missed opportunity.

You aren’t alone, and you haven’t ruined your life. It’s
easy to go round and round in your head over something you wish you could
change, but good friends remind you that you don’t have to.

 

Friends Keep You Honest

Have you ever thought, “I can’t ever tell anyone about
this?” You’re not alone.

Although secret-keeping can sometimes be a good thing,
research suggests that keeping and especially thinking
about secrets is harmful
to you. They make you feel isolated when there’s
no real cause. Even worse, they can make you withdraw from relationships.
Cultivating honest friendships is one of many ways
to combat isolation
.

Healthy friendships bring the safety you need to tell the
truth about your thoughts and feelings. You can process and learn from your
life with support from friends instead of getting stuck in hidden mental
cycles.

 

Friends Challenge Your Thoughts

Finding “a tribe” doesn’t mean choosing friends who agree
with you on everything. Having people
who challenge your beliefs can help you
become the healthiest version of
yourself.

No two people will agree on all their values and opinions,
and in healthy friendships, both parties should feel comfortable telling the
truth. That means conflict will exist to some level within every healthy
relationship.

This kind of conflict is excellent for your mental health.
Challenging the way you think is one of the primary ways you can confront and heal
anxiety
. Disagreements with friends allow you to examine your thoughts and
develop healthier mental habits.

You don’t have to agree with every new idea you hear.
However, learning to challenge your assumptions will lead to stronger
friendships and better mental well-being.

 

Friends Teach You Self-Acceptance

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to forgive other
people than it is to forgive yourself?

For example, I don’t find it difficult to forgive someone
when they’re rude to me at the supermarket. I assume they’ve had a bad day or perhaps they’re hungry or tired. However, if I’m mean to someone while I’m there,
I’ll think about it for hours, possibly months.

Good friends will remind you to be gentle with yourself.
Without the support of a community, human beings don’t have the resources
within themselves to generate the self-love and forgiveness they need.

Cultivating healthy, affirming friendships is an invaluable
part of each
person’s journey to self-acceptance
. It’s a major factor in the importance
of finding your people.

 

Friends Make You Laugh

When I was dealing with loneliness at school, I watched a
lot of YouTube to relieve stress. I quickly found that laughing at something
wasn’t the same as laughing with someone.

Laughter
has many health benefits
, including relieving stress, strengthening your
immune system and relaxing your body. Good friendships bring a lot of
reciprocated laughter, which is just another connection between social groups
and mental health.

When you’re feeling down, your friends can lift your mood by
acting silly and even encourage you to join in.

 

How to Find Your Tribe?

My loneliness at school lasted into my second year when I
found friends who valued me as much as I appreciated them.

If you’re struggling with loneliness, know you won’t always
feel this way. Continue to reach out and meet new people. With enough time,
you’ll develop lasting friendships that will bring the support you need to
thrive.

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend help is available.

Ginger Abbot is a student life and education writer who is
currently enrolled in graduate school part-time. She also serves as
Editor-in-Chief for the online learning magazine Classrooms.

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