Happiness is contagious, but so is sadness

A Harvard Medical Study of 5,000 people over 20 years shows that happy friends make us happier people, even up to three degrees of separation and for a whole year. Having happy friends increases your happiness by 15 percent, and maintaining unhappy friends decreases your happiness mojo by 7 percent.

Both Aristotle and Plato say having friends is the quality of living a good life. Plato devoted the better part of three books to friendship and love: the Lysis, Phaedrus, and Symposium. And Aristotle praises the Greek concept of “philia:” the fostering of friendship or brotherly love.

Friendship is fostered in mutual understanding and respect. People who have compatible likenesses, personalities, and trust with one another are likely to be good friends. Friends show up for each other in good times and in bad times. It brings to mind the popular good friend poem:

A Friend in need is a friend indeed.

When it counts, friends show up for each other, but sometimes friends go separate ways. Usually, this happens when a mutual activity two people enjoy ceases or when a friend fails to show up consistently or in significant ways. Sometimes life gets in the way, but mostly friends cease to be friends when there is a breakdown of trust in the relationship. A bad friend is the kind of person no one needs.

Friends are the family you choose to have because we all know that we can’t pick our family members. Wouldn’t it be great if we could? If your friends are weighing you down, it might be because they are bad friends. Bad friends reduce your happiness and overall well-being.

Based on Conditions

If your friend wants you to act a certain way or puts conditions on your relationship, they may be a bad friend. Sometimes people naturally drift apart, but if showing up as a friend becomes you do this to keep me as a friend, you have a bad friend. A good friend is unconditional. Think back to your high school years. You probably had at least one person who always wanted something based on conditions. I had one such friend who always wanted something. She put conditions on our friendship and before we graduated, she went down a dark path of drugs. I should have removed her from my friend circle earlier.

Is a Bad Influence

A person who consistently gets in trouble and influences you to do the same is not the kind of person to keep in your inner circle. Think of the friend who’s always living life on the edge and needs you to act as her inner conscience. It’s what friends do for each other on occasion, but if it’s a full-time job, it may be time distance yourself.

Self-Serving Conversation

The person who dominates the conversation and makes “self” the focus is a self-centered person. Ask yourself this question: Do you feel bad about yourself after spending time with this person? If your answer is “yes” more often than it is “no,” it may be time to re-evaluate your connection. If the conversation is mostly one-sided, you probably have a bad friend. Friends shouldn’t always leave you drained in a negative way.

Overly Competitive

Healthy competition is a good thing, but when competition is over-the-top, or unnecessary, you may have a bad friend. Friends posture and have ego-boosting moments of “I can do better than you,” much like siblings, but not so much as to danger a relationship.

Fails to Show Up

Good friends perceive a need and show up with support. One who fails to show up in a time of need is not a good friend. One who socially distances for self-preservation or only shows up for good times is a bad friend. A friend who bails on you for self-serving needs is not your friend.

Only Wants Something

Friendship is mutual. If someone only wants something from you, they probably care about themselves more than anyone else. If you put in more than you receive, it may be time to get out.

Isn’t Happy for You

A friend will be happy for you when good things happen. This person will celebrate your wins and joyous occasions. If your friend doesn’t show up in good times, she won’t show up in bad times either.

Be a Good Friend

You’re a good person and a good friend will acknowledge this in good times and bad times. You don’t have to apologize for being your awesome self, but your friend may need to apologize for not being a good friend. And, if you aren’t significant enough to keep around, it’s time to find better friends.

Do you have bad friends you need to move away from? It may be time to confront them or let the relationship dissolve. A conversation may open up channels of connection, but if your friend continues to be bad, it’s time to be a better friend. Some friends come close for a time but aren’t meant to be forever friends.

Do you have too many bad friends? Researchers have found that making new friends increases your happiness by releasing oxytocin in the body. There are other benefits too:

  • lower blood pressure
  • decreased anxiety
  • they help you live longer

If you have too many bad friends, it may be time to end some relationships to increase your happiness. Eliminate the negative and raise your happiness level by pulling your good friends closer. It’s important to know who your friends are, and who they are not. Who are the bad friends you need to eliminate?