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The Importance of friendship

I speak to my clients a lot about positive actions, positive interactions and positive thoughts.

These are the fundamental steppingstones of a healthy mind.

Personally, I recognise how a breakdown with any of these leads to a darker mood and a day where I may struggle a little more than others. As a therapist I like to keep it real. I am human after all and I have no magic mental health wand to cure everything. Being mentally healthy takes work and dedication and a real understanding of how we suffer in the way that we do.

I am affected just as anybody else would be by the “normal” riggers of life, whatever they may mean to different people. I must also work to recognise what I can do differently that would make dealing with these things easier. I struggle with being an island as a family in that we have no support system from parents/grandparents. Our last date night was 5 years ago and the lack of being able to share not only the difficult times but also the school plays and school reports is something I find very difficult. It is the unconditional positive interactions that I miss here, and I recognise the importance of being able to interact with someone to rant or gossip and then proceed with the day. There is something very valuable about those people in our lives who we can call at any moment and cry/laugh/gossip, those trusted people who do not judge but support us in our rants, fall outs and comical moments.

Its interesting to note that one of the first things that we give up when suffering from mental illness is our interaction with others. Hiding from the world that seems too much to cope with. So, we sit alone in hope that it will some how change over night and we will be able to cope and interact once more in the way we may have done before. It is true that social isolation is a precursor to depression and anxiety, but it is also true that it is a symptom of these mental illnesses also.

Early man and early women hunted and gathered, and successfully supported themselves and their families. And they got a reward for carrying out their different roles within their tribes. We work better as a tribe rather than individuals, so they got rewarded when they interacted positively with other people. After much deliberation scientists are no adamant that this reward that all members of the tribe gained by carrying out their roles was motivation. Feeling motivated helped them to deal with all their day to day activities. They could cope better with physical fear, they would become braver in order to protect their tribe. They even managed to deal with physical pain more easily when they were motivated to do so in order to ensure survival of their tribe.

The reward was however more than just the feeling it was a chemical response in the brain. This chemical response in the brain was the creation of a neurotransmitter that is vital to mental well-being and it’s the neurotransmitter known as serotonin. It is our happy chemical. Along with noradrenaline and dopamine, serotonin, helps us to work much like early man, not hunting and gathering and chasing mammoths, but interacting in a positive way, being active in a positive way very importantly thinking positively.

So, the relationships we have with other people really do have a huge impact on our mental health. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, consider your interactions with others and maybe take the leap and pick up the phone and arrange a coffee with an old friend and you may just find your way back to you.

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