But does it really matter? And isn’t quality over quantity better, anyway?
Your Own Breast Friends
BHG has partnered with BreastScreen Australia for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Be your own breast friend by prioritising your health and checking your breast screening is up to date. If you are due or have missed an appointment, book your free BreastScreen mammogram appointment now - Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.
Psychologist Rachel Voysey says preservation, like any relationship, requires serious commitment. “Maintaining or making new friends in adulthood takes effort, time and energy to initiate, grow and preserve.”
So why, exactly, is this effort so important? Well, it’s because strong friendships have myriad benefits – which all correlate to your overall ‘happy factor’, and mental and physical health.
Research published in the National Library of Medicine shows quality friendships boost happiness, improve self-confidence and self-worth, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and increase your sense of belonging, purpose, community and connection.
Additionally, studies show strong friendships can promote positive and social development, helping you cope during periods of trauma, whether that’s a life event such as a divorce, dealing with challenging teens, or navigating a life-threatening medical condition such as a breast cancer diagnosis.
“It’s very important for our mental health and sense of wellbeing to feel connected,” explains Rachel. “We are a social species who very much need each other. Having people we can share with, trust and have fun with is strongly correlated with better health, both mentally and physically.”
And the good news? You only need a few quality relationships, with one study showing that three or more friends in adulthood is indicative of higher life satisfaction.
Here, three friendships worth investing in (and reaping the rewards in joy, health and confidence).
1. The non-judgemental friend
In the building and keeping of friendships, psychologists have identified three factors necessary to maintain an intimacy - that a person feels understood, validated and lastly, cared for. “One of the reasons we sometimes avoid friendship is that we, as humans, have a very deep fear of rejection and judgement,” Rachel explains. “If we feel that a friend is comparing us or judging us, we will tend to share very little about our authentic self and true experience as a way to protect ourselves.”
Rachel says that once we close down and share less, the value of the friendship diminishes as there is a lack of true intimacy, a product of losing deep honesty.
“Non-judgement and trust in relationships go hand-in-hand, as these qualities make us feel safe in our connections to both friends and partners.”
In our lifelong struggle to understand, validate and care for ourselves, is it any wonder that a non-judgemental, ride-or-die friend that seeks to know about us, all about us, and still loves us is among our most treasured connections?
Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, and this year alone, more than 20,400 females were diagnosed nationwide.
Make BreastScreen Australia your trusted friend. BreastScreen Australia is the national breast cancer screening program, with over 750 locations operating across every state and territory.
2. The objective truth-teller
Just as we trust our non-judgemental friend with our most intimate secrets and concerns - and are consequently given the space to process our thoughts and make meaning about our experiences - an objective truth-teller calls a spade a spade!
This is the friend that tells you what she really thinks of the unflattering dress you’re about to drop $100 on (don’t buy it), blatantly calls out that your ex-husband was never worthy of you, offers to write your dating profile for you and affectionately tells you that if you don’t get yourself booked in for your regular mammogram screening, she will gently escort you to her car and drive you herself!
This friend is gold. You might not like what she says, but everything comes from a place that has your best interest at heart. If you don’t have a truth-teller in your arsenal, hire one. We’re serious. It could be a counsellor, a doctor…
And just on that point, EVERY woman should have a great doctor – one who knows your medical history, makes you feel valued and who you have regular check-ups with. As we age, so do the chances of health problems – and you need someone in your corner.
There is a reason why the older we get, we require fewer friends or acquaintances to achieve contentment. A teenager just doesn’t have the reserves of experience and life lessons to draw on. “The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important, because how we view ourselves - what we believe about ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves - shapes how we meet the world,” Rachel explains.
When we feel secure in our relationship with ourselves, she says, we are more resilient when things go wrong; we aren’t afraid of risks or new experiences. A woman who is a true friend to herself will not shy away from advocating for herself, for her body, or her health. And that is why the woman, herself, is among the three best friends she truly needs.
Brought to you by BreastScreen Australia - the national breast cancer screening program, with over 750 locations operating across every state and territory. A whopping nine out of 10 women with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease, and early detection saves lives. In fact, advancing age, and not genetics, is the biggest risk factor in developing breast cancer. Women aged 50 – 74 are invited to book a free screening mammogram every two years. If you’re due, book an appointment by calling 13 20 50, or through their website here.