Healthy Relationships

An important part of growing up is finding good friends. In fact, having at least one good friend can actually improve your health. NBC Learn, in partnership with Centene Corporation, explains what a healthy friendship looks like and how to avoid a relationship that isn't good for you.

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MORGAN RADFORD reporting: Hey there guys, I'm Morgan Radford and it's time to get healthy!

You might think that being healthy is really just about focusing on you, your body, your mind, but in order to really be completely healthy, you actually need to also think about who you spend time with, like your relationships.

Did you know that at your age, your brain is literally rewiring all the time? It’s helping you to figure out who you are and making you more independent, really pulling you more towards friends who share your interests and your goals. It also allows you to become less dependent on your parents.

So, who are your friends? And the quality of those relationships, it’s all really, really important, because research shows that having just one close friend in your teen years could benefit you for your entire life.

Dr. JENNIFER HARTSTEIN: I'm Dr. Jennifer Hartstein. I'm a child adolescent and family psychologist. So friendships are really good stepping stones for all of us. We are social beings at heart. So friendships teach us give and take, understanding, empathy, sympathy, all of those important life lessons that help build us to have a romantic relationship, to be a parent, to all of those pieces kind of come out of building positive relationships with others.

RADFORD: So how do you know if you have healthy relationships? A healthy relationship is supportive, it’s respectful, and it also has really open communication. And that actually keeps us healthy. It benefits our physical, our mental, and our emotional health.

HARTSTEIN: Having good friendships can impact your physical health because maybe you do things with them, so you get out and you're active. But we also know that when we're feeling more depressed or feeling more anxious, it does impact how our stomach feels or if we have headaches or how we're taking care of ourselves. So friendships can help bolster our emotional health, which we know plays off of our physical health, and both things improve.

RADFORD: But healthy relationships, they don't just happen-- you have to feed them so they can grow and they can thrive.

HARTSTEIN: I think the first place that starts is with you. What is it that you want from a friend? Do you want someone to have fun with? Do you want someone who's going to hold all your secrets? Do you want someone who has similar interests? So, figure out what makes you a good friend. What do you offer to your friends? And then see if you can find people that complement that.

RADFORD: And there are some signs of unhealthy relationships.

HARTSTEIN: All of the gossiping behind one another's back or intentionally leaving out a "friend," quote-unquote, or not being able to communicate with your family about things that are upsetting you, or feeling like if you do let somebody know you're feeling, they're going to be angry. Those are all signs of things that aren't quite going so well.

RADFORD: There are ways you can strengthen your relationships, like trying to make your friends feel good.

HARTSTEIN: Ask someone how they're doing, check in with them, invite them over, invite them to go out, invite them to do something with you. Remember a birthday. Stop and think about what would make you feel good that your friends remembered to do for you, and start to do that for other people.

RADFORD: So here are some things to keep in mind so that you can have healthy relationships right now and throughout your entire life. Just be yourself. Good friends value you for who you are because nobody else can be you. And don't be afraid to speak your mind. Friendships, they aren't always perfect, but you can talk about your problems. Ask what your friends need, and tell them what you need. And if you don't know what to do, just ask for help from a trusted adult. And remember, it's quality over quantity. Find your people, a few great friends who mean a lot to you, and that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

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Mental Health, Get Healthy NBC News Learn