The friendship test: Are yours good, bad or toxic?

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Let’s talk about friendship. The social, emotional and physical benefits of strong bonds and the disadvantages and drawbacks of toxic pals.  When you think about it, friendship was an obvious first topic for our new podcast The Well.

More on that in a moment.

You see, when my mate, 97.3FM breakfast radio host Robin Bailey and I decided to do a podcast together we knew immediately we wanted to create something that we ourselves (err, DESPERATELY) needed!  We wanted a conversation  – a PRACTICAL conversation  – about how to live a calmer, easier and happier life.

Listen to Robin and Bec talk about making friends as a grown-up, here:

Between us, Rob and I have six kids, three dogs and two households teeming with chaos.  While our lives and some of our philosophies are polar opposite (she’s a single mum of three teenage boys and I’m married with three little kids) – we struggle with the same issues: getting enough sleep, handling all the clutter in our homes, the vice-like grip technology has on our households, unpacking our relationships with food (I’m typing this eating peanut butter out of the jar), and our ongoing search to create deeper connections with our kids, our friends and our loved ones.

And where better place to start than with friendship?

Happiness experts will tell you that our relationships (or social ties) are the foundation to a happy life.  Friends offer us comfort, understanding, companionship and someone to confide in and turn to in times of distress.  There’s plenty of research out there now to say that positive close friendships are good for our health to the point they can even help us live longer.

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The girls from Girls know what a good female friendship is.

After all, it’s our friendships that impact our health and well-being more than what we eat or even how much we exercise.  Think about it. Do you eat junk when you’re with your friends?  Smoke?  Drink your way through three bottles of wine? Does your gang, your tribe, call forth your best or bring out your very worst? Do your friends lift your spirits or drain your energy?

Of course, as Robin rightly points out in this first episode - it’s not always easy to make friends and here you’ll find some practical tips from happiness researcher and author of Happier At Home, Gretchen Rubin on how to give yourself the best chance at making new friends (or you can just try to pick up women at the playground like I did when I  was friendless in Adelaide).

And then of course there’s the oh-so-uncomfortable issue of how to untangle yourself from a toxic friendship.  How do you know it’s toxic? Here’s one clue:

“Pay attention to those who don’t clap when you win”

And here are a few other signs:

You don’t like who you are when you’re around them

You feel drained or depressed after spending time with them

Watch Robin and Bec talk about their podcast:

You can’t be your true self around them and have to pretend to be someone or something you’re not

Your gut instinct tells you that you can’t trust them

When you’re together they routinely mock you, humiliate you and try to make you feel small.

Your friendship is fraught with constant drama

They are only ever there for the good times OR conversely they are only ever there for your bad times (feeding off your misery like a bit of a vulture)

Listen to the full episode of The Well below, where Rebecca Sparrow and Robin Bailey talk about the good, the bad and the toxic of friendships. 

For more episodes of The Well, subscribe to the show in iTunes, find us on the Mamamia Podcast App, or download it via your favourite podcast app. 

If you have a friendship ticking some of these boxes, it might be time to get the hell out!

But of course, how do you end a friendship?  This is the tricky bit. Do you confront the person a la The Bold And The Beautiful? Or do you just stop watering the friendship and allow it to slowly, naturally die like the rather pathetic plants on my veranda?

Our homework in today’s episode is about finding ways to strengthen our ties, making time for our friends despite how busy we all are. Rob and I offer up some ideas but we’d love to know how you and your friends stay close?  Do you do regular dinners? Weekends away? Annual holidays?  Daily Skype calls?

And hands up who still has a toxic friend in their life?

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