If you’ve been thinking about making some changes in your life in order to become healthier and happier, you may have been wondering about eating more healthily, drinking less or exercising more. All of these are generally good things to do, but have you considered doing a friendship audit?

If you’ve been busy, and that’s most of us these days, you may have decided to put your friendships on the back burner. Sometimes that’s necessary, but if it goes on too long, we can find that our friendships are drifting away.

Friendships can also fade when we no longer have in common whatever drew us together in the first place. For example, our kids were friends, but are now at different schools.

A friendship audit

A friendship audit is about analysing the current state of our friendships, so that we can make conscious decisions about whether things are fine as they are, or whether we need to make more effort, or even move on.

One way is to simply draw a kind of mind map, with friends at a distance depending on how close we feel they are, and grouped together as appropriate. Consider both how often you have seen people this year, and how comfortable you would be about asking them for help, or sharing your problems. Doing this may surprise you, as we are sometimes not conscious of how things have shifted.

Then ask yourself if you are happy with the current state of your friendships. Which newer friends would you actually like to become closer to, which friends do you really only see out of a sense of duty (and why?), which old friends have you been neglecting? How could you rebalance things?

The importance of friendships

Research shows that friendships are incredibly important for both our mental and physical health. They can reduce stress, and even help us to live longer- and yet we rarely pay much attention to nurturing them.

Clearly making time for people is one way of growing and deepening a friendship, but it’s not just about seeing someone regularly. More important is being available, reliable and responsive. When a friend contacts you, do you forget to return the text, or consistently cancel arrangements? These kinds of things will eat away at a friendship. Of course, they may also be a sign that things are not right between the two of you- ask yourself honestly if there is something which needs addressing.

Which brings me to my second point. Close friendship requires us to be brave enough to show people who we really are. If you have a friendship that you would like to be closer, let them see all of you, including the dorky bits and the insecurities. If they like you, this will endear you to them (and if it doesn’t, the friendship had no real future anyway. )

Thirdly, consider how reciprocal the friendship is. If it has always been you helping or listening to them, or vice versa, that isn’t really a friendship. Of course we all go through tough times when we need our friends to just be there for us, but if it’s always like that, it can actually prevent closeness. It needs to go both ways. Bear in mind, however, that any imbalance may be down to you being too self sufficient and unwilling to ask for or accept help, as much as them being too needy.

A plan for the year ahead.

Having done a friendship audit – and having audited your own behaviour as a friend- make some conscious decisions about how you are going to build and maintain your friendships this year. Prioritise it, because good friendships are essential to our well being as well as constantly giving us the opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow.

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