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TANG: Platonic relationships keep us healthy

Forming close relationships is essential for well-being and personal growth. – Photo by Pixabay /

College can often feel overwhelming when being swept up in a crowd of thousands of strangers. This can cause feelings of loneliness, forcing us to want to find someone to help fill that void.

With so many dating apps available, the idea of being in a romantic relationship seems to be closer than ever. Being just a right swipe away from hundreds of potential romantic matches can make it easy to overlook the power of a platonic relationship.

A platonic relationship is a friendship in which individuals, both opposite-sex and same-sex, share a close bond without sexual relations. Familiar terms for these types of relationships may be bromance, womance and work spouse. Platonic relationships offer positive psychological benefits to our brains and bodies, create a sense of belonging and develop ourselves as individuals.

A review of 38 research articles published between 2000 and 2019 found that adult friendship consistently correlates positively with well-being. Specifically, friendship quality, socializing with friends and other factors such as the number of friends and their supportive behaviors were associated with higher levels of well-being.

Being a college student comes with an abundance of stress. No matter where it stems from, talking to a friend allows us to respond to stress healthily.

Research has shown that individuals who lack quality relationships have an increased risk for heart problems, blood pressure and premature death.

From a neurological perspective, Berna Güroğlu, a professor of Developmental and Educational Psychology at Leiden University, found that friendship influences brain systems linked to reward, stress, and negative emotions. This led to the conclusion that social connections benefit our mental health and well-being.

Being socially accepted means being included in groups and relationships. At any age, this is important because close relationships elevate a sense of self-worth.

And with the increase in social media use, it can be easy to be sucked into technology and not remember the importance of real-life interactions. An international study showed that high school loneliness has increased in 36 of the 37 countries from 2012 to 2018.

There is no doubt that the pandemic was an isolating time for many of us. Catherine Bagwell, professor in the Department of Psychology at Oxford College of Emory University, concluded that a good indicator of how students were doing both intellectually and emotionally was how well they got along with their friends and peers, especially during the pandemic. Because the pandemic disrupted routines and support systems, having strong relationships offered emotional, social and academic support.

Platonic friendships provide essential support during the pursuit of goals, offering motivation to engage in activities and explore new ideas. Friends also serve as valuable resources for professional development, offering insights and assistance. In both personal and professional realms, friends facilitate personal growth by fostering empathy, resilience and adaptability while nurturing important life skills such as communication and teamwork.

Aristotle identifies three types of friendship: utility-based, pleasure-based and character-based. While all have benefits, character-based friendships are the most meaningful and enduring. These relationships require effort but offer immense satisfaction and lasting value.

Aristotle's focus on character friendships resonates with the idea that platonic relationships thrive on emotional intimacy, mutual respect, shared values and genuine connection. Both Aristotle's concept and platonic relationships emphasize the importance of authentic connections for a fulfilling social life.

The people we keep around significantly influence our lives. A study on smoking in the U.S. shows that, in a group of smokers and non-smokers, individuals tend to quit smoking together in their social circles. Quitting was most influenced by closer relationships.

This overarching concept is crucial for personal growth because surrounding oneself with individuals who share similar values allows individuals to hone in on their own sense of worth. Additionally, being surrounded by authentic and supportive individuals who share these values helps individuals stay grounded.

In a sea of people, although it can be intimidating to find other individuals that match your energy, it is not impossible. Remember, losing friends along the way is a part of growing up and is sometimes necessary for personal growth. Letting go of friendships that no longer serve your growth will always be more beneficial than clinging to stagnant relationships.

Each person entering or exiting your life brings valuable lessons, offering opportunities for self-discovery and continued personal growth. Close friendships are mirrors that reflect our thoughts and emotions, which allows individuals to understand and navigate through our journey of life.

Kelly Tang is a sophomore at Rutgers Business School majoring in Finance and Supply Chain Management. Tang’s column, “Don't Get Me Started” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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