Darling buds: how best friends keep us healthy and happy

We met when we were young. I don't know how I would have coped without her. Barbara and her best friend, nicknamed "Tulip", both had alcoholic fathers. Their friendship was an escape from unhappy homes.

The relationship between the best friends is as strong as ever. Barbara says that they are still there for each other during tough times. Tulip drove for hours to be at the funeral and to help Barbara empty her father's flat. Barbara says she can't imagine life without her. She is my guardian angel.

Some of the best friends last. When Minreet Kaur got her first job after university, she met her best friend. I trusted her immediately and she did me. We had each other's back and could talk about anything. She supported me through my divorce. I didn't see life without her.

Minreet immersed herself in her career while her best friend settled down and had a family. She says that they were leading different lives. We don't keep in touch. I have never had a friendship like that before. I miss her. Everyone needs a friend.

Some of us have a friendship that lasts a lifetime. They are there for us, without question, and we call them on a whim. They are a family. Making friends can be difficult for adults. It can take more than 200 hours to become close to someone. What if we don't have a friend? Should we be worried if we have no friends at all?

Best friends have their own set of rules.

We like people who are similar to us. Homophily is the idea that similarity makes social connection easier. Research has shown that close friends are similar in many ways.

Best friends have the same rhythm of their hearts, body temperature and hormones.

Scientists at the University of California scanned the brains of a group of students as they watched a series of short videos and found that those who were close showed incredibly similar neural responses. The areas of the brain that responded were related to motivation, learning, processing, memory, and generally making sense of things. The findings show that we choose friends who are similar to ourselves in how they interpret the world.

The author of Why We Love: The New Science Behind Our Closest Relationships is an evolutionary anthropologist who specializes in dyadic relationships. She says that when we love someone, we experience biobehavioral synchrony.

She explains how two people mirror each other. They use the same gestures. They use the same phraseology or tone of voice. The rhythm of their hearts, body temperature and hormonal responses are all related to best friends. The higher cognitive functioning parts of the brain are visible when you look inside the brain.

There is a commuter problem in London.

Is it hardwired to seek out a best-friend relationship? The brain's regulation of hormonal activity in the body is studied by Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University.

The maximum number of friends humans can maintain is 150. It is true that modern society is similar to the size of prehistoric hunter-gatherer communities. It is not always plain sailing when you live in a large group. Group living can be a problem for mammals. The bigger the group, the more stressed you are.

The London commuter problem is the pressure of living in cramped conditions with other people. He says keeping others at bay is what makes social living possible.

A series of layers, or circles, are made up of friends that vary in quality. There is an inner core of five and a layer of 1.5. These are your closest friends or romantic partners. Your inner circle is your best friend and it provides a huge buffer against the stresses of living in a social group.

The reason the number of people in your innermost circle of friends is 1.5 is that for men it tends to be their romantic partner, whereas for women it's their close friend.

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The benefits of friendship include a calming effect on the body, as well as positive effects on the immune system. A connection of this kind is the best way to treat depression.

Women are more emotional with their best female friend than they are with a romantic partner.

Studies show that close relationships result in lifelong physical and mental health benefits. People with good social bonds live longer and have better reproductive health. They are more likely to recover quickly from illness. They can cope better with stress.

A meta-study found that bonds with close friends are more important to your health than losing weight or exercising. According to a US survey of 20,000 people, not having close relationships can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

There is a mechanism for survival.

"At the basic level, friends are a mechanism for survival, but what's really interesting about friendship, particularly female friendship, is how we often underestimate the importance of that friendship in our lives." For many women, the critical relationship in life is their best friend, and we usually put romantic relationships at the top.

She says that women are more emotional with their best female friend than with their partner. They allow themselves to be more vulnerable in front of their best friend than they are with their partner because they share their deepest emotional fears.

Women get important input from their female friends on their mental wellbeing. If we look at a man's brain when he's talking to his friend, we can see his amygdala, the brain's fear and risk sensor, fire up, so he's finding it quite uncomfortable.

A conversation with a best friend results in a lot of benefits in a woman's brain.

Friends v acquaintances.

Are we broken if we don't have a best friend? Dr Kirmayer is a clinical psychologist who specializes in friendship. Our relationships help us meet our need to feel connected. It's true of our closest friends, our acquaintances, and even our moments of connection with strangers.

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How important are your friends?

How important are your friends is a review by Friends by Robin Dunne.

Kirmayer says that our friendship is more important than the label. Up to half of our friends are unreciprocated according to research. It is paramount that the people we choose are choosing us in return. Balance and reciprocity are the keys to a healthy close friendship.

According to the brain's theory of social attachment, social interactions cause positive emotions when they bind to the brain's opiate receptors. We get a feelgood factor from seeing our friends.

A lot of people I have interviewed say they felt high after spending time with a best friend, which carried them through the whole of the next day. Many people were suffering from withdrawal during the lock down.

Just hanging with my bestie.

Technology has made it easier to connect with friends, and it has become the norm to publicise them. More than 25 million views have been recorded on TikTok for a post tagged "best friends" and "Internet best friend".

How does best-friendship interact with life offline? Social media interactions have been shown to increase closeness between friends who also interact offline, yet social media use has been shown to displace time spent on face-to-face interactions.

You can have real friends online. Social media is simply a medium of communication. Communication online is not as gratifying as face-to-face. The rate of decay of relationships is slowed by it. It won't stop them from decaying.

It is much harder to maintain relationships online because of the reduction of neurochemical release. There is no biobehavioral synchrony.

Absolutely profound love.

Human friendship is the most important aspect of social bonding, and your best friend is the most important of all. According to Machin, friendship is an aspect of our lives. It is complex.

It is as if every single person in your body has a relationship with that person.

The doctor is Dr Anna Machin.

At its most basic level, friendship is a form of biological bribe. It is a set of chemicals that reward you for forming and maintaining relationships. It is a mechanism that has evolved to make sure that you invest in the relationships that are critical to your survival.

Through biobehavioral synchrony, we feel that profound connection. We see it in relationships between parents and children, in romantic relationships, and in best friends. Would a romantic partner be a good parent to my children? Do we have the same goals in life?

The parties are more open with each other because they are not always having to remain attractive for their partner. A good friendship is about values and support. It's possible to live on opposite sides of the Earth and still feel close to your special friend.

It is as if every single person in your body is in a relationship with that person. It sums up how important best friends are. To make sure that you are as close to this person as you possibly can be, you need to engage every mechanism in your body. If those relationships weren't critical for survival, we wouldn't have evolved this way.