By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Healthy living encompasses so much more than eating right and working out. It also includes your emotional, social, environmental, and financial wellness, to name a few. These variables are fully explained by a diagram called the wellness wheel, which highlights all aspects of individual wellness. Among the dimensions is social wellness. If you know how to choose the right friends, then you’ll be on the path towards a happier, healthier life.
Social wellness can have a huge impact on your life and your future. Consider this well-known saying: “You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.” Friends are important because they provide a sense of belonging, give advice, and offer support. Since we rely so much on the people around us, hopefully, you can see how surrounding yourself with the wrong type of friends could be very detrimental. Your friends can be one of the strongest influences on your future successes and failures. Sometimes it can be hard to know who to trust! But don’t worry; I’m here to help! Let’s take a closer look at some tips on how to choose the right friends.
Negativity and toxicity are the core of an unhealthy relationship. If someone makes you feel constantly stressed and anxious, they have a negative influence on your life. Unfortunately, this negatively usually trickles into other aspects of your life. Your mood, work, motivation level, and other relationships will suffer.
Negative people may often disguise themselves as happy, but if your mood is lower after talking to someone, they are most likely toxic. Often when someone pours out their problems, they are more cheerful, but only for a bit. Negative people are always complaining, looking for problems, and finding fault. Spending time with people like this causes a huge drain to anyone’s energy. Some of the most common qualities of an unhealthy relationship are the following:
Now that we know how to spot negative people, let’s discuss how to avoid them. If we could completely delete someone out of our lives, life would be so much easier! Often that’s impossible because toxic people can be family members, oldest friends, or even bosses and coworkers.
Friends and family are perhaps the most difficult to distance yourself from. The easiest way to reduce their negative energy in your life is to slowly cut back the time you spend with them. You can also encourage them to see a therapist, but many times people just want to complain and don’t actually want to make any changes in their lives. If this is the case, learn to change the subject whenever this person starts to grumble.
Coworkers can be a bit easier to avoid. Change your schedule by eating lunch elsewhere or see if you can get your desk moved. You can always tell your supervisor that you would get more work done if you were in a different area away from the air conditioning or the common areas, for example.
Sometimes, even after all of these tactics, complete avoidance is still impossible. One of the most important truths you have to realize is that you cannot change someone else, but you can control yourself. You can change how you respond to someone and how often you spend time with them, and you can make yourself less available as a confidant to them.
Another change you can make in your life to avoid toxicity is to surround yourself mostly with positive influences. The best kinds of people are those who inspire us to be better, not those who drag us down. If we want to become the best versions of ourselves and create a bright future, we must surround ourselves with positive people! Healthy relationships should bring more joy than anxiety into your life. Although all relationships will have some good and bad characteristics, the good will always outweigh the bad in a healthy relationship.
The more time you spend in the company of positive people, the less time you will have for the pessimists. If you’re smart, you will realize not everyone deserves your friendship, time, or energy. Only those who are loyal, are supportive, and bring out the best in you are worthy. Of course, in order to be in a healthy relationship, you must also be these things for your friends, as well.
Positivity also feeds more positivity! Negative people love when others commiserate with them, and they tend to avoid those who are always happy and feeling gratitude. The more optimistic you become, the more the haters will fall by the wayside naturally. Once again, you can’t control other people, but you are in control of yourself. Making changes in your personal life will often result in eliminating the negative people you had been trying so hard to change or avoid.
Negative people can drain our energy and keep us from moving forward, so it’s very important that we surround ourselves with positive friends. How do we know which are right for us? Positive people come in all shapes and sizes, and just because they have different values or hobbies doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them! In fact, if you always spend time with people that are too much like you, you will never grow! The following are some core characteristics you should look for when choosing whom to spend your quality time with.
Friends that are constantly evolving and have the drive to succeed will encourage you to do the same. If unmotivated people were your only support system, how could they inspire you to keep going when you don’t succeed? You could quickly become discouraged and lose sight of your goals. The friends you want in your life are those who will listen to your woes and challenge you to keep going because they are doing the same. This type of friend is also good at celebrating each of your successes without jealousy.
Most of the time we are drawn to people that are similar to ourselves. If you think about your friend group now, you may find that you all have similar values, humor, income, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you are still able to encourage each other. But it’s also smart to spend time with people that are more successful, specifically in areas you want to grow into. Seeing a different way of life will broaden your perspective and give you new goals. This is also one of the quickest ways you can advance, as a more successful friend can serve as a mentor.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember in all of your relationships is that they are two-sided. If you want true friends, you have to be a true friend yourself. You have to engage, motivate, and support your friends, too. Trust and respect are vital on both sides for a positive relationship.
Friends can have a huge impact on your life, and you need to be smart about who you choose to be in your inner circle. Are they supportive and motivating, or do they complain and bring you down? Can you trust them, or are they jealous? As you think about who is in your life now, ask yourself if they will help you or stand in your way. Then use these tips to help surround yourself with true friends.