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Friends can keep you emotionally healthy.

There is a definite link between friendships and mental health. "To be emotionally healthy, human beings need to love and to be loved, and to feel worthwhile to themselves and others," maintains Sarah Rahhal, coordinator of the Employee Assistance Program, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. "Friends fulfill this role as few others do. Everyone knows that we can't choose our relatives, but we can choose our friends. Because of this, our friends reflect our own true self-esteem and self-image. Almost everyone chooses friends who help us feel better about overselves.

"Friends also affirm each other and give us a sense of connectedness. People need others to share their joys and their challenges. Having good friends helps prevent isolation and helps a person keep life events in perspective."

While a plus for both men and women, there are some noticeable differences in male and female friendship styles. "Men are more likely to have friends to do things with, while women have friends whom they talk with. Women also are more likely to have one or two |best' friends, while men tend to have a group of |buddies.'

For enduring friendship, commitment, caring, and trust are essential. Open-mindedness and a nonjudgmental attitude also help to keep it strong. "Ask yourself, who are the members of your personal |cheerleading squad'? If we isolate ourselves, we have no check on our own personal imaginings and fears. Without friends, we have no one to give us hugs and encouragement or the occasional kick in the pants - all of which we need from time to time."

Rahhal offers several suggestions for maintaining healthy, long-term friendships

* Show that you value the other person and make a commitment to spend time together.

* Share and be assertive regarding your thoughts, needs, and feelings. Encourage your friends to do the same.

* Be a good listener.

* Respect individual differences without being judgmental.

* Resist the temptation to give advice unless your friend specifically asks for it.

"Another factor which is important in this day and age is to remember that your friends are still your playmates as well as your confidantes. Shared laughter is as important as shared pain, and friends should make time to do fun things together."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Society for the Advancement of Education
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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