10 Science-Backed Ways Your Best Friend Improves Your Life

Keep your pals close.

08/06/2016 8:00 PM AEST | Updated 08/06/2016 8:00 PM AEST

Let's take a moment to praise your best friend.

She's the Ron Weasley to your Harry Potter or the Monica Geller to your Rachel Green. He's the person who sticks with you beyond the breakups, bad news and blunders. And you couldn't love your bestie more for it.

The truth is there's no one quite like your BFF -- and apparently science agrees. We rounded up just some of the proven ways your friends affect your life. Check them out below (then go hug your bestie).

1. Best friends reduce stress.

If you're totally strung out, you better call your BFF. A 2011 study found that spending quality time with your best friend can alleviate stress and make you feel better. There's no better person who can give you a shoulder to cry on.

2. They make you feel a sense of belonging.

Friendships provide a sense of community and meaning. As Karyn Hall, a Dialectical Behavior Therapy trainer and author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, points out in a Psychology Today blog, your connection to others can do wonders for your wellness. 

“A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health and happiness,” she wrote. “When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult times. You are not alone. There is comfort in that knowledge.”

3. They help you manage health issues.

Health complications are frightening, but your best friend makes them a tiny bit easier to handle. Research shows social support can have a positive effect when fighting disease, O Magazine reported. It also reduces your risk of illnesses like dementia and can mitigate the symptoms of depression.

Your friend's presence can even make small improvements in your health. Studies suggest strong social ties even reduce your risk of catching the common cold.

4. Friends can help you live longer.

The Fountain of Youth has nothing on your bestie. A 2009 study found that strong social support can improve longevity. This is possibly because friends can have a healthy influence on your daily behaviors, according to the researchers. 

5. They push you to practice more self-acceptance.

No one knows you better than your best friend -- that includes your flaws. But while you tend to beat yourself down about them, your BFF lifts you up in spite of them. That kind of support is crucial when it comes to expressing compassion and love toward yourself and others.

Real friends naturally boost your self-esteem,” Robert Rowney, a certified psychiatrist and the director of the Cleveland Clinic mood disorder unit, previously told The Huffington Post. “And in turn, helping out a good friend [in this way] can help you feel better about yourself as well.”

6. Honest conversations with them can improve your wellbeing.

Research shows that confiding in close pals can boost your health, Happify reported. Sometimes that requires a little vulnerability when talking about the tough stuff.

"Honesty isn’t always an easy thing, but it’s important to your bond," Rowney said. "Swallowing that pill and being the best friend you can by being open with them always works out better."

7. They make difficult challenges seem less daunting.

Facing adversity? Call your best friend. A 2008 study found that having a friend by your side can actually make a hill appear less steep. Of course this is a physical test of the theory, but the concept can be applied emotionally as well. A challenge is a challenge.

8. BFFs call you out on your wrongdoings.

No one is perfect, including you. Luckily, your BFF is there to gently remind you of what's right and wrong and get you back on track. And that's a sure-fire sign of a real friend.

“They’re able to point out some of the negative things you’re doing in addition to the positive,” Rowney said. “They really support you on both sides.”

9. They improve your attitude at work.

Thank your office BFF for that spring in your step as you walk to your desk. Studies show that having close friends in the office boosts job satisfaction and may keep you more engaged at work. Not a bad reason to be buddies with your colleagues.

10. They genuinely make you a happier human.

There's obviously no doubt about it when they're making you laugh so hard your stomach aches, but research shows that having a close buddy around can lift your mood exponentially. And it's not just that longtime BFF that puts a smile on your face: Making a new friend can also improve your mood through the release of oxytocin in the body.

When it comes down to it, your best friend is good for more than just a gossip session over brunch or a hug when you're feeling low. They improve every facet of your life. So in case you don't do it enough, thank your pals for their friendship. They're truly one of a kind.

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