Chances are, your relationships with your BFFs mean the world to you — as they should! Having people to share interests, experiences, and memories with is critical. Surrounding yourself with a solid, caring crew is also a healthy thing to do: Experts say that friendship can benefit your heart, exercise your brain, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and so much more.

Nicole Sbordone, LCSW and author, explains that the magic of friendship starts with the connection human beings naturally crave. “Friendship provides a deep connection that helps us feel loved, supported, and well-connected,” she says. “When we feel valued, that raises our self-esteem, improves our self-worth, and gives us a sense of belonging and happiness.”

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1. Friends can help you make healthier choices. Studies show that scheduling and committing to group exercise increases the consistency and enjoyment of exercise. And Sbordone agrees that having a health-focused friend group can make it easier to stick with a wellness routine. “We tend to make healthier choices when we have a community or group of friends, like if we all go to the gym together or go for a walk. The same applies to setting goals like to eat more nutritiously or drink less alcohol… Never forget that we can (and do!) influence our friends, and vice versa.”

2. Friends can serve as top-notch support, in good times and bad. “Knowing that a friend will be there for us, no matter what, helps us feel as if we’re not alone. This is especially important when someone is without close family relationships. Having a support system during tough times — like while grieving a loss or going through a breakup — can help prevent us from falling into a depression,” Sbordone notes.

Your squad can also help you celebrate triumphs and wins, improving feelings of positivity. “Spending time with trusted loved ones provides opportunities to help process strong emotions that come with celebrating achievements and major life experiences,” adds Melissa Wolak, MS, cognitive and communication therapist.

3. Friends can help lower your stress. Laughing, talking and sharing your experiences with a friend can help you find external focus, which helps shift you away from stress or chaos. “Meaningful connections have been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease stress,” Wolak confirms.

4. Friends may help you find fulfillment. Have you ever phoned a friend to be a sounding board for you while you were thinking about a decision? Or maybe you rely on a positive group text to get validation and feedback. No matter your method, reaching out to those you care about can help you feel fulfilled. “Each human has a strong desire to be heard, seen and valued in some way. Having quality friendships and interactions fulfills this deeper need for acknowledgment and can provide feedback and all kinds of concerns for us to consider with life choices,” Wolak says.

5. Friends bring big cognitive benefits. Your friends can actually give your brain a boost! “Interacting and conversing with friends provides cognitive benefits in that a healthy brain maintains its neuroplasticity with a variety of stimulation and experiences,” Wolak explains. “You might debate and discuss current events, visit a different restaurant or place, and try new things.”

Wolak says other benefits that come from conversations and experiences with your crew include helping your mind process information, solve problems, remember details, handle distraction, and even keep focused.

How do your friends show up for you? Tweet us the deets @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)