These days, you can hardly spend five minutes on social media without discovering a new day of recognition. From #NationalSpinachDay to #TalkInAnElevatorDay (you’ve just missed that one, in case you were wondering) you’d be forgiven for declaring time on the lot. However, among those that seem nothing short of absurd, there are others that stand out for their obvious value.
One such day is World Friendship Day, also known as International Day of Friendship, which takes place on July 30th each year. First proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly, the idea is that ‘friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.’
There’s no doubt that friendship can be extremely powerful. Peace efforts and social cohesion aside, the relationships we nurture can have a significant impact on our psychological wellbeing. Human beings are social creatures – we’re designed to interact with others. Just look at the effects of loneliness: so much more than just a melancholy feeling, experts now characterise loneliness as a disease that increases our risk for a range of physical and psychological disorders .
Yes, social connection definitely matters for our wellbeing, adding another layer of value to World Friendship Day. But what if you don’t have many friends? Are you automatically destined for poorer wellbeing? Well, a study conducted by researchers at Trinity College Dublin investigated loneliness in nearly 2,000 adults and found that it was actually a case of quality over quantity: rather than being the number of social connections that impacted psychological wellbeing the most, it was the quality of those connections .
This finding should offer comfort to anyone who gets by with just a small circle of friends. With social media making hundreds – even thousands – seem like the norm, it’s easy to feel like there’s something inherently wrong with you if you buck the trend, but you don’t have to have an army of devotees and you don’t have to worry about not having one either.
No, the important thing is to be aware of how powerful social connections are. Far too often we get swept up in everyday life and end up taking people and relationships for granted. We cancel plans when we could have attended; we ignore calls when we could have answered. We let connections fade, often under the pretence of prioritising, when in fact the value that lies in friendship is more than worthy of being prioritised.
This World Friendship Day, make an effort to connect with someone you haven’t had much contact with recently. A card through the post, a bunch of flowers, a simple text or call. It needn’t be expensive or take long and it might have far more of an impact than you realise.