Friendship: a question of quality.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Jim Rohn

2 months ago I went back to the beginning of University which essentially made me, for the second time in my life, a Fresher.

People, places and professors were all new. I wondered around campus, trying to hide the map on my phone and look confident about where I was going. And then, faced with a myriad of new faces in my classes, I did that horrendously clichéd thing of all but saying, ‘Hi I’m ready to be your best friend.’

But after a couple of days of this frankly cringe-worthy behaviour I realised something. Things have changed since my teenage days of trying to collect friends like they were Pokémon cards. Back then it was all about quantity…nowadays I realise quality is a far better friendship barometer.

When I look at the rag-tag bunch of people who I have collected over the years, there’s not much apart from location which draws them together. From scientists to sports-mad energetic types, to endlessly travelling souls who loathe the idea of an office and a job, to those who throw on their heels everyday and rock the workplace – they’re all there.

But these people, all of whom I have somehow gained a friendship which levels above being a pal on Facebook, do seem to have a few things in common. They are all kind, interesting, positive people who make me feel like I am capable of being the best version of myself. They inspire me to aim for more, seek new adventures, push myself into doing ridiculous things and then laugh about it when something ultimately goes slightly wrong.

It sounds kind of cheesy but I think, through no actual scientific testing of my own, that happy, positive, uplifting people, make me feel exactly that: happy, positive and uplifted.

But then I discovered that it is actually science! A study at Harvard and the University of California found that people who spend time with happy people are generally happier and have a more positive outlook.

Psychology Today even used the fancy term contagion to describe this very phenomena.

And if science says it’s a thing, who am I to argue?! From now on I will spend time exclusively with the best people life has to offer.


Life doesn’t actually work like this. But here’s a few things you can do to help yourself:

  1. Firstly things are a bit more complicated than just cherry-picking some bright and bubbly friends and then life swinging along all hunky-dory. Bad things happen and even your most wonderful friends will go through dark and difficult times. And NO…I’m definitely not saying you should just drop them like a hot coal.
  2. But I do think there is some argument in protecting yourself in these instances. Recognise that helping a friend through something really tough, might have a serious affect on your outlook and so its important to carve out some time for yourself away from the tough issues. And you will always know that a true friend is worth sticking with. Negative people are very different from a friend going through a crap time.
  3. Unfortunately, unless you are some rich princess, you can’t micro-manage the people who cross your path for the rest of your life. I’ve heard that somewhere on the horizon, after student-life eventually finishes, you have to go this place called work. I know – it sounds terrible! And in this mystical, work place you have to spend a certain amount of time with people who, let’s face it, might not be your first, second, tenth or hundredth ideal partner in crime or time.
  4. Again…now is the time to exercise some self-protection. Rise above their behaviour, realise that their mood is not affected by you. So let them seethe and froth in the corner, and you continue to do you. I can tell you from experience that once you separate your emotions from an angry person’s it can feel like a real weight has lifted.
  5. In the end, cut the people who you don’t need and don’t have to need. Sometimes we cling onto friendships because we feel like we should. Maybe you’ve known the person for years, but if you can be honest with yourself, and figure out that every interaction you have with them leaves you feeling drained, is that friendship really adding value to your life?


Natalie Jones


Natalie helped to found Take On Life after getting injured and sick and feeling too far removed from the bikini bodies on Instagram. Her specialist subject in life is the Olympics and, even though her friends think it's a bit weird, she regularly re-watches her London 2012 DVDs!

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