Making different types of friends can be fun and exciting. Friendships can also boost your mental well-being.
Sometimes you meet someone new and just know you’re going to be close friends. Other times, it takes longer to get to know someone until you (or they) feel comfortable enough to put your walls down. But once you find your people, life generally tends to feel a little fuller.
Friendships, how they happen, and how intense they are will vary for everybody. Perhaps you’re still close with your childhood friends or feel happiest when in large, diverse groups.
You might feel fulfilled with just a handful of deep friendships, or maybe you’re a social butterfly whose calendar is never empty.
Whatever friendship style feels right for you, there are several benefits that you could experience as a result of these connections.
While the different types of friends vary, Lena Suarez-Angelino, a licensed clinical social worker and empowerment coach based in New Jersey, likes to think of friendships in four groups:
- social friends
- intimate friends
- the epitome of friends
“You can have friends that are more like acquaintances that you only stay in contact with because they are from work or another mutual interest gathering,” explains Suarez-Angelino, “outside of that, you probably wouldn’t say more than three words to one another.”
Perks of having acquaintances include:
- networking potential
- low-expectation conversation
- reduced social anxiety
“You have social friends intended to be more light-hearted and only truly good to have fun with at social gatherings,” starts Suarez-Angelino, “but you refrain from sharing too intimately or deeply with them.”
Perks of having social friends include:
- being a part of a community
- widening your circle of friends
- easy, low-pressure dialogue
Intimate friends are the ones that are always your go-to for advice. These are people you can share or celebrate good news with and rely on. “These friends are insightful and helpful in your support,” says Suarez-Angelino.
Perks of having intimate friends include:
- deeper connections
- help and fun you can depend on
The epitome of friends
Finally, you’ve got the epitome of friends. “These are friends that can have both the fun and silly good times while also being there for one another during the darkest of times,” shares Suarez-Angelino. “These friendships are a beautiful dance and elevate one another’s well-being.”
Perks of having the epitome of friends include:
- freedom to truly be yourself
- stable, judgment-free support
- mutual love and loyalty
Don’t have friends in each category? That’s alright. Some friends might fall into more than one category, or some categories may remain empty.
“There may be reasons from your past that make trusting challenging, and you may choose not to have any close friends that know intimate details of your life,” says Suarez-Angelino. “You may only reserve that for family or a therapist, and that’s okay!”
“We’re wired to connect with others, so platonic connections are fulfilling,” explains Juliet Lam Kuehnle, a national board certified counselor in Charlotte, North Carolina. “They improve our sense of self and allow us to feel affirmed, connected, and like we belong.”
To identify if a friend or connection is good for you, consider reflecting on how you feel after spending time with them. Do you feel:
- natural or like you’re pretending
- connected or disconnected
- drained or energized
- excited or frustrated
What “good for you” means in friendship can vary from person to person. But some characteristics of a healthy, solid friendship are universal.
“A healthy friendship is one that has authentic emotional expression, appropriate boundaries, assertive communication, shared values, and a give and take,” says Kuehnle.
Of course, this doesn’t mean disagreements or dissonance won’t happen occasionally. But according to Kuehnle, in a healthy friendship, there’s an attempt to repair, compromise, and understand the other person.
Friendships have various benefits, including being good for your mental health.
Some mental health benefits include:
- reduced stress
- boosted happiness
- decreased loneliness
higher life satisfaction lower likelihood of depression
- elevated self-confidence
improved problem-solving abilities
But while friendship can be good for you, not all friendships last forever.
“Friendships have seasons — where they serve a purpose during a certain point in your life, but it may appropriately run its course,” explains Kuehnle. “This may be friends you make while your kiddo is in preschool, for example, but as the kids age out of playdates, you realize you don’t have much in common.”
Keep in mind that as you experience life changes, it’s okay if your friendships change too.
Friendships of all kinds can make this world we’re living in a little easier. Having friendships and feeling connected with others can have a significant positive impact on your life.
Take a look at the friendships in your life. How are they serving you? You may want to consider showing your closest friend more gratitude or calling up a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
If you’re craving connection, you might even consider putting yourself out there to build your circle.
Don’t feel bad if your circle of friends doesn’t add up to hundreds. It’s okay to go through life with a small number of friends. Just know that you don’t have to go it alone. After all, that’s what friends are for.