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Treating Mental Illness Naturally? Find A New Best Friend

written by Carissa Anrdrews - Oct 15, 2018

Treating Mental Illness Naturally? Find A New Best Friend

Mental illness affects one in four adults in any given year. In the United States, this means approximately 60-million Americans are looking for ways to manage their mental health. Treatment can come in a variety of forms: medication, better diet, natural supplements, and other alternative health avenues. However, there are still some who struggle with the news of any mental condition—and many who will try to ignore the diagnosis all together. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best course of action.

Did you know 70-90% of those who do seek treatment for their mental illness and face it head on actually have a significant reduction in symptoms? As it turns out, the key is whether or not the person can face their illness and be a part of the solution to their own health. Often times, this push towards acceptance can be thanks, in part, to the support and encouragement of close friends.

The Mental Health Benefits of Quality Friendships

A recent study found our mental health as an adult may be predicted by the quality of friendships we forge during adolescence. The key word here is quality. While kids with high-quality friendships (friends who engaged in psychological attachment and allowed for intimate exchanges) had lower social anxiety, increased self-worth, and fewer symptoms of depression—those with more popularity during their high school years actually had higher levels of social anxiety as adults.

Friendships enrich our lives and encourage better mental health in a variety of ways. These benefits transcend a recent diagnosis and filter to every human on the planet.

Increased sense of belonging and purpose — Everyone wants to feel like they belong and matter to the big picture of things. Close friendships help us attain that vibe and help us stay grounded in our worth. They encourage and foster higher self-confidence and self-esteem through mutual respect and genuine interest in your well-being.

Boost overall happiness & stave off depression — Good friends make things fun. They lighten the mood, encourage us when we’re down (and even when we’re not!), and can keep us from spiraling into depression.

Reduce stress — Being around a close friend actually decreases the stress hormone cortisol and helps you to buffer any negative experiences coming your way. This is important for people prone to anxiety and depression.

Help you cope with negative experiences — Everyone will encounter negative experiences in their lives at one point or another. This can be anything from divorce, to a serious illness, job loss, the death of a loved one, and even a mental illness diagnosis. I can personally attest to this. If it wasn’t for my best friend, I’m not sure where I’d be today when I was going through my separation and divorce in 2010-11.

Encourage healthy lifestyle choices — Quality friends will always want what’s best for you—and that means making the best lifestyle choices to foster the best you. Not only will they help and encourage you, but they’ll often be seen leading by example.

Friendship Maintenance 101

While friendships are important to our mental health, they can sometimes be difficult to hold onto as we get older. When we leave school, close friendships can fall to the wayside as new priorities take their place. However, maintaining those close friendships is invaluable. Here are a few tips to keeping those friendship lines up and running.

• Be available – Everyone is living busy lives, but the key to keeping close friendships is to be a close friend. Check in once and a while. Set up a lunch date. Go out for coffee, a movie, or just hang out at home. Spending time together is the #1 way to keep your friendships topped up.

• Open up – Close friends aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. They trust one another and share some of the more intimate details of their lives: hopes and fears.

• Listen well – Having close friends also means being one. Your friends also need someone to lean on. Be sure to listen to your friends and be there when they need you.

• Be trustworthy – This should go without saying, but it’s important. Be transparent and the kind of friend who is known to be trustworthy. Don’t say things behind a friend’s back or say one thing and do another.

• Be kind – There’s enough negativity in the world. Kindness goes a long way. Even if you’re having a bad day, or in an argument with a friend, keep it kind. You’ll thank yourself later when your friendships last the test of time.

Need New Friends?

A mental health diagnosis can be a hard pill to swallow. However, this can definitely be made worse by unsupportive friends. If the friends you have aren’t your cheerleaders, it might be time to forge new close friendships. Yes, it can be a challenge as an adult. But here are a few ways you can put yourself out there.

• Volunteer for a cause

• Pick up a hobby

• Extend an invitation to someone you admire

• Reach out to an old friend

• Accept invitations that come your way

• Meet the neighbors

• Join community events

A Note on Social Media: Quality friendships come in various forms and all different avenues. It’s absolutely possible to meet high-quality friends in chat groups, online communities, and even Facebook groups. I met my husband on Twitter, of all places. However, research does suggest social media friends won’t necessarily translate into closer offline friends, which can still leave some people feeling lonely. Whenever possible, it’s encouraged to take new online friends offline, so you can enjoy a wholistic, quality friendship.

Be Your Own BFF

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with a mental illness, it can easily become overwhelming news. However, this can be compounded by lack of close friendships to turn to. What do you do to calm the nervous tension of coping and treating a mental illness? One way to give yourself a leg up is to remember to treat yourself the way you’d treat your own best friend—or to give yourself the advice you’re really longing to hear.

What would you say to your best friend if they found or are dealing with the news you were given? A few examples of what you might tell them include:

Go talk it out — if you’re low on good friends and confidants (and even if you have some!), find a good therapist you can talk to. Pick one that specializes in the mental illness you’re dealing with so they can offer you relevant, valuable feedback.

Do as you doctor prescribes — take the correct dose of your medication on time every day. Even if you feel like you see an improvement. (Because it’s likely the medication’s handiwork!)

Don’t let this beat you — a good friend will want you to see the challenge ahead and help you set realistic goals for how you can manage it.

Don’t forget about self-care — take care of yourself and your overall well-being. Take time off. Get enough sleep. Eat right. These are all things a good friend would tell you to be mindful of — and follow up to make sure you’re doing it.

Having a handful of BFFs in your corner truly is something to celebrate. Quality friends help us stay grounded and positive, and help us reduce our stress when we really need it. Whether you’re treating a mental illness naturally, or by taking medications prescribed—or a combination of both—having your besties by your side can make life a friendlier place. If you have some good ones in your court, take the time to thank them for their support—and don’t forget to return the favor. You never know when they might need it, too.



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