National Friendship Day
Have you heard of National Friendship Day? Yes, we do have a National Friendship Day and it falls on the first Sunday of August every year, and this year, it is on August 1, 2021. Different countries celebrate on various day. Spain celebrates on July 20, Bolivia celebrates on July 23, while Finland celebrates on February 14. National Friendship Day was originated in 1930s by Joyce Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards. It was a marketing strategy at first, but was widely welcomed. It was so popular that United Nations designated July 30 as International Friendship Day.
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out”
‘No man is an island’. We all need to be with people, and human beings are the most social beings on earth. This is simply a universal fact. During the past 16 months, the pandemic has taken its toll on our physical and mental health. It forced many to sacrifice social connections. In a 2010 meta-analysis by Holt-Lunstad, Smith & Layton, researchers found a strong connection between social relationships and life span. A survey done by Ipsos on behalf of Global News in April 2020 found out that over 50% indicated that physical distancing has left them feeling lonely, and younger Canadian (18-34 years old) are more likely to be experiencing loneliness. The unprecedented drop in different community activities, from volunteering to attending classes, has an impact on Canadian’s Index on Loneliness and Social Isolation (ISLI). In October 2020, a study by Angus Reid Institute indicated that there has an increase of ISLI from 23% to 33%. The study also showed that there was an overall increase in mental health concerns (33% in 2019 vs. 47% in 2020). Thanks to technology that there can still be some sort of connections via digital. According to a study, 71% in 2020 said that they feel more connected through virtual connections. However, in 2021, only 47% said it makes them feel more connected to friends and family, while 47% said it is simply better than nothing. Canadians are longing for face-to-face connections. Interacting in person allows us to focus on the other person, building trust and truly learn and exchange with each other. All that contribute to our mental well-being.
Our society tends to put other relationships in a higher hierarchy, partner, children, parents before friendship. But as mentioned previously, positive friendships have a huge impact on our physical and mental health.
Benefits of friendship
Boost your happiness and immune system
Increases our sense of companionship
Mitigates feelings of loneliness
Reduces your stress
Increases your resiliency
Improves your self-confidence
Reduces your risk of significant mental health issues
Provides support to make constructive changes
‘Friendship’ is in fact very interesting. You may become friends with one person but not with another. There is a chemistry happening. Most of the time, we tend to be better friends with those who are more like us, who share similar world view and have common interests. Friendship is a very unique relationship which is voluntary. Positive friendship can be beneficial to our health, but at the same time, negative friendship can put our health at risk. The older we are, the harder it is to make friends. Think about how you can run to your neighbour, knock on their door and ask your friend to come out and play. You and your friend walk to school and back home together. When people grow up, move around, and develop their own life pathway, friendship is easy to take a hit.
Pete Cafarchio, in his book ‘How to make the friends you’ve always wanted’, states 4 stages of friends:
Acquaintance: You may have a lot of acquaintances that you only share ‘public’ information, and there is little to no trust in them,
Peer friend: You may have many peer friends who you share your interests and opinions, and there is some trust in them,
Close friend: You may have a small number of close friends who you consider as part of your inner circle and who you share similar life goals and values, and there is much more trust in them, and
Best friend: You may only have a very few of them who you share your dreams, intimate details, and built up a very strong level of trust. This relationship requires honesty, loyalty, and commitment to support each other.
The time putting in each of the stages varies. Dr. Jeff Hall at Kansas mentioned that it takes about 50 hours to go from considering someone an acquaintance to a friend and as many as 200 hours to consider somebody a best friend, with the requirement of having that ‘friendship’ chemistry happening.
To build and maintain your social circle is important and needs time and energy. Meeting new friends sometimes can be an intentional process. Start with acquaintance who may eventually be your close friend or best friend. Some possible ways include: join interest class, be a volunteer, take a walk daily and chat with your neighbours, attend community events, dog parks if you have a dog, or be a member of your community block watch.
Nurturing your friendship requires your commitment and genuine attitudes, including be genuinely interest about other person, be ‘present’ when interacting, be attentive and listen, be respectful, keep your friend’s confidential information private, willing to share and disclose, show your gratitude, and be able to meet your friend regularly. We do not need to please someone to maintain a friendship, whereas we need to accept who we are.
Here are a few lines of a song by Jessica Andrews’ ‘I will be there for you’ that I would like to share with you before concluding this article.
Through sorrow, on the darkest night
When there’s heartache deep down inside
Just like a prayer you will be there
And I promise you all my life
Whenever the road is too long
Whenever the wind is too strong
Wherever this journey may lead to
I will be there for you, oh I will be there