Basic research shows that high quality, close relationships bolster our success – personally and professionally. Close friendships go deeper than an acquaintance you have small-talk with at the grocery store; psychologists define close friends as “those non relatives whose birthdays we celebrate, with whom we discuss intimate matters such as work or marital stress, and whom we might call upon for help with a move or a medical emergency.”

Who in your life fits this description? Have you let some of these people fall by the wayside? It might be time to reinvest. Here’s why:

Close friends help your personal life

Strong and meaningful social ties have been shown to impact us – beyond even the emotional level – on a cellular level.

For example, strong social networks have been linked to:

  • A 50% reduction in mortality risk
  • Protection from chronic disease
  • A lower likelihood of catching a common cold or suffering from acute stress
  • Fewer depressive symptoms

Close friends help your professional life

You might be thinking, “Even if friendships make my personal life better, I don’t have time to focus on myself right now.” But get this: Maintaining close friendships will benefit you professionally as well.

For example, employees with stronger social circles:

  • Earn more at work, on average
  • Receive better performance reviews
  • Report reduced dissatisfaction at work
 

While our online social networks average 200 “friends,” most of us average only two intimate friendships.

Why it’s time to invest in your close friendships

A survey of 1,300 people found that a majority of regrets people express at the end of life concern the absence, dysfunction or loss of social connections.

And maintaining friendships is only getting harder; while our online social networks average 200 “friends,” most of us average only two intimate friendships. In other words, our social networks are increasing in size, but we’re left with weaker intimate ties. Without close friends, we struggle to:

  • Test our self-perceptions against reality
  • Celebrate wins and buffer against losses
  • Feel seen, heard and understood by others; in other words, we struggle to meet our need for basic belonging

How do I reinvest?

  • Interest Groups: Are you passionate about wine? Cooking? Women’s or men’s health? Chances are, there is already a group of like-minded people gathering around a topic of interest. Bring a close friend along, or meet a new one!
  • Find balance: While you can’t dedicate every night of the week to friends, maybe once a week or biweekly is doable. Find a frequency that feels right, and create a routine around gathering with close friends.
  • Face-to-face: Hopping on a call with a long-distance friend might be your only option, but try as often as possible to meet in person.