Stressed? Rx: Empathetic Friends!
Every fall, college freshmen begin the familiar tradition of establishing friendships with classmates in their dormitories.
But little do they realize how much choosing the right friends—notably, ones with empathy—could be beneficial during stressful times, says a new Stanford study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The transition to college can be tumultuous,” said Jamil Zaki, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford and co-author of the study. “Whom you end up making friendships with can play a significant role in how you’ll deal with the stress and hardship of freshman year.”
When you need a dose of fun, engaging with a positive and happy friend can lift your mood. But that friend may not be the best person to go to when you need someone to confide in. An empathic friend, on the other hand, may be just the right person for helping you through difficult and challenging times.
“Empathic individuals were more likely to help their dorm mates and provide support during difficult times,” said Sylvia Morelli, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study. “These freshmen became magnets for close relationships in their new dorms.”
“Empathic people are the ears and shoulders of these communities,” Zaki said.
Who in your life provides empathic support? And how can you increase your empathy for those in your life?
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