As an old saying goes, friends are the family we choose. The role of a friend in someone’s life is great and to a large extent, many of our decisions are determined by what our friends say and do.
Friendship are as important to our wellbeing as eating right and exercising and they also help us grow through each year of our lives. The basic components of any relationship, from our marriage to our coworkers, are all founded in friendship. We learn how to interact with people because of our friends, even the ones that are opposite from us or share a different worldview.
One of the most overlooked benefits of friendship is that it helps keep our minds and bodies strong. In fact, it’s as important to our physical health as eating well and keeping fit. A recent Harvard study concluded that having solid friendships in our life even helps promote brain health. Friends helps us deal with stress, make better lifestyle choices that keep us strong, and allow us to rebound from health issues and disease more quickly. Friendship is equally important to our mental health. One study even suggested spending time with positive friends actually changes our outlook for the better.
Friends don’t completely cure loneliness, but they do help us during lonely times. They teach us how to accept kindness and also to reach out when we need help. Having a steady stream of friends lets us know that some friendships won’t last forever but each one brings something special. We learn more about ourselves and how important it is to have someone, who knows and understands you. A good friend can change our value system so we learn to inject more meaning into our lives. In spending time with friends, we fill up our lives with great conversation, heartfelt caring and support, and laugh out loud fun. When we fall on hard times, friends are there to put things in perspective and help us. When we have success, they’re smiling at our good fortune. We don’t just live when we have healthy friendships, we thrive.
The original idea for a day of friendship came from Hallmark cards in the 1930’s. Originally celebrated on 2nd August, the day was largely viewed cynically by the public as a money making exercise, sales of friendship day cards did not take off in Europe and by the mid-1940’s the day had faded into obscurity in the USA. The idea of a day to honour friendship was, however, adopted by a number of countries in Asia where it remained a popular custom to reserve a day for celebrating friendships and the exchange of gifts between friends.
The first World Friendship Day was proposed for 30 July 1958 by the World Friendship Crusade, an international civil organisation that campaigns to foster a culture of peace through friendship. Many years later, in 2011, the 30th July was declared as the International Day of Friendship by the General Assembly of United Nations.
Because friends are so important in our lives, in 1997, the UN General Assembly made a proposal to make 30 July the International Day of Friendship, which defined the culture of peace as a set of values, attitudes and behaviours that reject violence and endeavour to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes with a view to solving problems. Recognising that enormous harm and suffering are caused to children through different forms of violence, the UN General Assembly emphasised that the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence should be instilled in children through education. If children learn to live together in peace and harmony, as friends, that will contribute to the strengthening of international peace and cooperation.
The International Day of Friendship is also based on the recognition of the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world. The day was proclaimed in 2011 by General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.
The day places particular emphasis in involving young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity. It is also intended to support the goals and objectives of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World which was supposed to be between 2001 and 2010.
With the growing popularity of social media throughout the world, there has been an increase in celebrating World Friendship day and International Day of Friendship online as well as with community activities in local communities aimed at bringing those of different backgrounds together. How can you, as an individual mark this day? Reach out to a close friend either via telephone or using video to check on them and spend some qulity time together. Because of worldwide lockdowns, you may be unable to meet them physically, but today technology has ensured that distances are now not an issue anymore.