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5 Reasons Studies Say You Have to Choose Your Friends Wisely

Surrounding with the right people has surprisingly far-reaching effects.

Morgan DDL/Shutterstock
Source: Morgan DDL/Shutterstock

The company you keep says a lot about you, because your friends have a major influence on how you feel, think, and behave.

Here are 5 reasons, then, that you should be careful about who you surround yourself with:

1. Strong-willed friends can increase your self-control.

If you struggle to resist temptation, surrounding yourself with people who possess a high degree of self-discipline can help. A 2013 study published in Psychological Science reports that when people are running low on self-control, they often seek out self-disciplined people to boost their willpower. And since self-control is vital to reaching long-term goals, befriending people with willpower could be a stealth secret to success. Whether you’re tempted to skip a workout, or you’re considering blowing this month’s budget, spending time with a disciplined friend could boost your motivation to maintain healthy habits.

2. Having fewer friends increases the likelihood that you’ll take financial risks.

When people lack adequate social interaction, they’re more likely to take bigger risks with money, according to a study published in the June 2013 issue of Journal of Consumer Research. Researchers discovered that people who felt lonely or rejected were most likely to take the biggest financial risks. Whether you’re dealing with a recent break-up, falling out with family, or a failed business venture, be aware that your emotions could affect your spending habits. Uncomfortable emotions can increase the chances that you’ll behave recklessly, which may have a negative impact on your bank account.

3. Having too many social media connections increases your stress level.

When it comes to social media, “the more the merrier” may not be the best approach. A report from the University of Edinburgh Business School found that more Facebook friends means more stress, and researchers linked an abundance of social media connections to increased anxiety about offending people. This effect stemmed from people's desire to present a version of themselves that would be acceptable to all their social media contacts. While your college buddies may enjoy publicly discussing that weekend in Vegas, your parents and co-workers may be less than impressed. So before you begin adding people to your social circle, remember the potential downside to having too many friends on Facebook .

4. Close friends may be the secret to longevity.

When older adults have close confidants, they’re likely to live longer, according to a 2005 study conducted at Australia’s Flinder’s University. After following 1,500 people for 10 years, researchers discovered that people with a large network of friends outlived less-friended counterparts by 22%. Other studies touting the health benefits of friendship have shown that connections can help ward off depression and boost immunity. So while it may be tempting to think that friends can be more trouble than they’re worth, we should be aware that having close friends can be one of the best things we can do for our health.

5. Friends greatly influence your choices.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that friends often bond by providing one another with the moral support needed to resist a temptation. However, friends also commonly conspire together to enjoy indulgences. Researchers discovered that when it came to resisting temptations—like eating chocolate—sometimes friends were more likely to become partners in crime as they decided to indulge together.

The reality is that you're likely to start acting more like the people you surround yourself with. When you pick friends who make poor choices, you could get dragged down fast. When you choose people who inspire and challenge you to be better, you'll increase your chances of reaching your goals.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. Watch the book trailer to learn her story behind the viral article turned book.