“I realized that going drinking with a friend and skipping the gym would do more good for my lonely, friend-deprived self than exercising would.”

The Importance of Friendship: Why you should skip the gym for friends

Wait a second? Hasn’t this lady been telling us to work out a lot? Didn’t she say she makes it to the gym 5-6 days per week? Hasn’t she said that I need to exercise pretty much every day to be healthy?

Yep, that’s right! Today I’m here to overhaul a lot of what I’ve told you. But for a very good reason.

Let’s take it back. Waaaaay back…

Growing up, I always had a small group of close-knit friends. Elementary school, middle school, high school, college; for all of these I can clearly think back to who I was closest to and who defined those experiences for me. I’ve been pretty lucky to have some great friends over the years. And that’s not to say I wasn’t friendly with other people or didn’t have a couple different friend groups, I just always had a few people I could confide in and absolutely be myself around.

As you may know, your entire social life changes when you leave college. If you’re still in college, you’re about to understand. Adulting is a whole different world.

When I graduated, I moved in with my boyfriend (which was and still is absolutely wonderful) but watched all my friends move away. I quickly realized that, outside of work, I had nowhere else to meet people. It didn’t help that I even lived far from my coworkers. I joined a fitness class to no avail. My erratic work schedule prevented me from attending at the same time every week, so I didn’t develop any close friendships. You don’t truly realize the importance of friendship until all your friends are gone.

Fast forward about a year later. Yes, a whole year. In which I didn’t make any new good friends because I had nowhere to meet them. Don’t get me wrong, I still had it good. I absolutely love my boyfriend – he’s my best friend – but there’s only so many times I can ask him to watch rom coms or go get a manicure with me (the latter of which he unfortunately never did agree to).

So when a coworker at a new job asked to get drinks after work, I had an interesting thought on my way to happy hour.

I had been planning to exercise that evening because I’d taken yesterday off. Part of me had almost said no because I usually stick to my workout schedule. I’m not meticulous or OCD about it, I just prioritize staying healthy. And I enjoy working off all my daily frustrations with a good gym sesh after work.

The funny thing was that the best and healthiest thing I could do for myself in that moment was actually go get drinks with this coworker. I realized that going drinking with a friend and skipping the gym would do more good for my lonely, friend-deprived self than exercising would. Wow.

How to be happy - skip the gym to hang out with friends

While Content With Coffee is about fitness and eating right, this blog is also about mental wellness. Because, honestly, just exercise and nutrition alone won’t solve all your problems. To be truly healthy, you need a balanced combination of the three.

Let’s say you’re a 30 year old woman. You exercise 5 days a week, both cardio and weights. You’re at a healthy weight. You eat 3 balanced meals a day, 2 snacks, lots of fruits and vegetables, just the occasional junk food/take out, and drink plenty of water. But…you’re depressed. You dislike your body shape, think negative thoughts about yourself all day long, and have trouble developing open and honest relationships.

Is that the picture of health? Is that how to be happy? Of course not! Living a healthy life also involves being content. You don’t have to be the happiest, most optimistic person in the world, but you do need to be kind to yourself and practice self-care.

Recognizing the importance of friendship – spending time with friends, developing positive relationships – is one way to practice self-care. Friendships allow us to share ourselves and care for others. They allow us to connect with our peers and know we’re not alone. I will still skip exercise for a day if a friend wants to hang out. Because being healthy is so much more than physical fitness.

So, first of all, if you’re struggling to find new friends or are missing your old ones, know that it’s something everyone goes through in life, for all sorts of reasons. Whether you just moved somewhere new, you’ve started a new job, or you’ve made another big life change (or your friends have!) we all find ourselves struggling to balance and improve our social lives.

The point is this: do what you need to do for your mental well-being. Don’t become so caught up in what you’re “supposed” to do that you miss the meaningful things in life. It’s like I said regarding money vs. happiness; you should strive to enjoy your day-to-day life. And the healthier your mind, the more you can contribute positively to everything else.

So if you need to skip the gym for a day to hang out with friends, by all means, do it!