Contributor: Lauren Branz, MHR, with contributions from Kate Thompson, LMSW – Laureate Eating Disorders Program
Last year, I was invited to something I had never heard about before: A Galentine’s Party. At first, I merely thought my friend had misspelled the word Valentine’s Day on my invitation. Little did I know, this play on words describes a get-together with friends around Valentine’s Day. In other words, it was a time to simply celebrate friendship.
At the party, we took turns telling each person specific, intentional aspects of their personality that we loved. The mood varied from intense laughter to tenderness with tears. The event was a bright light amid a difficult year, as many of us can attest.
It’s no secret that “Love” is the central theme of Valentine’s Day. As I reflect on my Galentine’s Day celebration, I am reminded that love doesn’t always come in a romance package. Love can be delivered in many different ways.
One of my favorite forms of love is quite simple: friendship. Friendship is often overlooked in the love department. It can, however, be one of the most powerful and intentional forms of connection.
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Friendship is such a gift and adds so much to my life personally. Frequently, friendship revolves around mutual support that can help one find more fulfillment in their day-to-day life (Amati, Meggiolaro, Rivellini, & Zaccarin, 2018).
Below are three ways that healthy friendship can positively impact your mental health – today, on Valentine’s Day, and every day. In fact, the idea of this article was birthed from a much-needed coffee date with a dear friend, who also happens to be a social worker. Together, we reflected on what friendship means to us as a people, and we are delighted to share that with you this February.
- Friends provide a safe space for vulnerability. There are many definitions of vulnerability; however, a relevant definition for our discussion would be the following: A willingness to show emotions or to allow one’s weakness to be seen or known. Friendship can provide a place where you can expose your weaknesses, wounds, and disappointments without judgment. Friendship can provide a safe space for support and provide an additional avenue for healing. You may ask, “How do I show vulnerability?” I would start simple. Share with someone you trust about an area in your life that is difficult or that you are working to improve. You might be surprised to know that you aren’t alone in your struggle.
- Friends give honest feedback and reflection. This is an important one. The feedback that my close friends have given me has saved me from a lot of heartaches over the years. Feedback is typically given in regard to someone’s “performance or understanding” of something (Hattie & Timperley, pg. 103, 2007). I often ask myself: how would I view this “through a friend’s lens.” In other words, what is another perspective on this situation that I could be missing? Friends can often see things that I cannot when I am in the thick of a hard situation. It has been one of the most helpful tools in my belt when it comes to making hard decisions.
- Friends have FUN. Friendship tends to revolve around shared experiences. Memories provide a foundation for friendship to continue to grow. Whether it be listening to cringe-worthy music together, watching funny movies, cooking meals, or simply being together, these activities can bring a reprieve to the hustle and bustle of everyday life. During this unique time of quarantine, these activities can feel limited and distant. Some helpful recommendations to still stay connected during this time would be once-a-week video calls, starting a book club, or sending packages to each other in the mail. These are practical tips…and just plain fun, if I am being honest.
My hope for you during this “Love Month” is that you could also reflect on the friendships that have been helpful and meaningful throughout your lifetime.
In closing, Cora Alice Du Bois, an American cultural anthropologist, describes friendship as a “universal human phenomenon” (Du Bois, 1975). May this “phenomenon” of friendship bring you great warmth this year, even in the midst of the bitterest, coldest, and most difficult of days.
Amati, V., Meggiolaro, S., Rivellini, G., & Zaccarin, S. (2018). Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friends. Genus, 74(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41118-018-0032-z
Dictionary. com. (N.D). Vulnerability. In Dictionary.com. Retrieved February 10, 2021. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/vulnerability
Du Bois, Cora. 1974. The gratuitous act: an introduction to the comparative study of friendship patterns. In The Compact: Selected Dimensions of Friendship, edited by Eliott Leyton, pp. 15–32. University of Toronto Press.
Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112. https://doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487
About Our Sponsor:
The internationally recognized Laureate Eating Disorders Program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is designed to meet the needs of individuals with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and other eating-related difficulties. Our program offers a full continuum of care for eating disorder recovery, including acute hospitalization, partial hospitalization, residential care, transitional living, and outpatient services. A multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, therapists, dietitians, and nurses collaborate daily to meet the individual needs of each patient in a safe, supportive environment. The combination of our care, our facility, and our highly experienced staff creates a program that provides results. By limiting care to 18 adult women and 12 adolescent girls the Laureate Eating Disorders Program maintains a more intimate environment to ensure individualized, patient-centered care.
About the Author:
Lauren Branz, MHR – Outreach Coordinator Laureate Eating Disorders Program
Lauren Branz, MHR, started in the Laureate Eating Disorders Program as a psychiatric technician in 2018. She highly valued the experience of seeing firsthand the life change and healing that happens within a treatment setting. Lauren accepted the role of outreach coordinator in 2019, a role that allows her to build relationships with outpatient programs and providers locally and across the country. Perhaps her favorite part of the role is sharing the vision of the program with other clinicians and being able to share from her experience as a tech in the program. In addition, she also stays very connected to the inpatient program by helping with inpatient meals and groups on a regular basis. Lauren earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology with a minor in English literature from Oral Roberts University. She completed her master’s in human relations with an emphasis on clinical mental health counseling from the University of Oklahoma. She values education in her life and plans on pursuing her LPC license.
Kate Thompson, LMSW
Psychiatric Research Coordinator Laureate Institute for Brain Research
Kate Thompson, LMSW, started in the Laureate Eating Disorders Program as a psychiatric technician while she was pursuing her Masters in Social Work at the University of Oklahoma. She currently serves as the Psychiatric Research Coordinator at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research. She enjoys spending time outside with her son and husband. Kate met Lauren while attending Oral Roberts University, and they have been friends for more than a decade and have traveled the United States together.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published February 23, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 23, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC