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From the moment we make our first friend as toddlers in daycare, we begin to develop our social skills.

As we grow, our social skills and support network grows and it helps us cope with the unexpected challenges of life.

Surrounded by good loyal friends have helped us cope through parenting issues, relationship woes and the stresses that come with work and life in general.

I am blessed that I have a group of friends that I can rely on and trust whole-heartedly when life gets tough. Whether it's struggling with our children’s poor choices, health scares or just sharing our marriage frustrations, we find comfort in each other.

A gathering after work, or just getting a cup of coffee once a week can make a big difference in our lives.

I find great joy when friends call me to enjoy an impromptu night on the town or include me in large gatherings.

Research shows that a lack of social support can lead to isolation and loneliness. It’s important to cultivate meaningful relationships.

A social support network is made up of friends, family, and peers. The Mayo Clinic reports that studies have shown the benefit of a social support network. Those include coping with stressful situations; alleviating the effects of emotional distress; promoting good mental health; enhancing self-esteem; lowering blood pressure and the risks of cardiovascular risks; and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

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Become a Member

You can build a social support network by surrounding yourself with friends, but you can also find opportunities to make new ones.

Join a gym or a fitness group. You can also volunteer in your community to surround yourself with others who give back. Connect with friends on social media.

Once you have established a foundation for social support networks, work on making them successful relationships.

Mayo Clinic suggests staying in touch with friends. Don’t compete or be jealous of a friend’s success. Listen to your friends when they speak and learn what is important to them. Don’t overwhelm them and seek them out only when you need them the most. Make sure you connect with friends you can trust.

Appreciate friends and family. Take time to thank them and let them know how important they are to you. Most importantly, be available when they need your support.

Surrounding yourself with friends and family can help us forget the headaches of life and bring joy to us in many ways. Be spontaneous and adventurous.

I understand that some people may not understand my choice to surround myself with friends, in a social setting, almost weekly. But I found that during happy times my friends bring out the laughter in me, and during the tough times, they are a shoulder I can cry on.

Remember, life is too short to not enjoy the company of your loved ones and friends. Know your tribe and enjoy their company.

Martha Garcia is a writer, communications instructor and bilingual marketing professional who lives in Bettendorf. Contact her at marthagarciawriter@yahoo.com.

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