03/09/2015 12:37 pm ET Updated May 09, 2015

Friends Give Your Life Meaning

Do you remember your first best friend? Mine was Diane. We were 11 years old when she moved into my neighborhood with her mother, siblings and new stepfather right after her parents got divorced. We bonded instantly over commonalities such as sweaty hands, curly hair and our growing interest in boys. For many years we shared much of our lives together -- from double dates to college escapades and then on to careers, marriages, divorces, child decisions, health scares, raising pets, etc. We've lived on opposite ends of the U.S. now since we were 23 years old, but when we talk or see each other, we pick up right where we left off as if no time has passed -- as if we're still 11-year-old girls chatting on the phone about nothing and everything.

Friends form a unique bond that is different than family. They share secrets and dreams that family may never understand or support. And unlike family, you get to pick your friends! My friend Diane couldn't pick her new father, but she could pick her new best friend... me!

Helen Keller once said, "Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light." We are not put on this earth to live alone or be alone. Countless studies have proven that social connections have a positive effect on our well-being including reducing stress, alleviating depression, and even extending life. What would happen if you lived life without any contact with other people? Chances are you wouldn't have much of a reason to stick around because friends give your life meaning. They also make it fun. Could you imagine Lucy without Ethel, Laurel without Hardy or Butch Cassidy without the Sundance Kid?

Your circle of friends can come from normal or unexpected circumstances. Sometimes a complete stranger comes into your life and becomes your friend. You may have nothing in common except one chance meeting. In fact, if you consider anyone you encounter in your day -- the homeless person begging on the corner, the grocery bagger at the food store, the person in the car next to yours -- to be a friend and treat those people as such, you will live a more rich and meaningful life while enriching the lives of others.

Friends nourish our soul, inside and out. Barbra Streisand once sang that the luckiest people in the world are people who need other people. I would add that they are also the richest people in the world because your life is truly rich when you have friends. Make sure you value your friends and keep friendships a part of your life. Reach out to a friend today!