Positive Peer Pressure: How Your Friends Can Affect You

Peer Pressure's Not Just Kid Stuff

Workout buddies
Peer pressure can be a good thing, too--a very good thing. John Fedele/Blend Images/Getty Images

I love people. I’ve made helping people the main focus of my life because I truly love to see others succeed. However, I believe I’m not alone when I say that many of us secretly relish a good study that shows what bad shape the Average American is in, simply because it makes us feel better in comparison. Obesity is on the rise? I guess I wasn’t so bad for having that extra cookie. Most of us are sedentary?

I guess I’m not abhorrently lazy for skipping the gym this week.

Interestingly, new research on college drinking shows, in my opinion, that it’s not always good to compare yourself to negative role models and, though you may feel like more of a "loser" at first, it’s best to find yourself some "positive peer pressure" to support your quest for a healthier, less stressed lifestyle.

First, the research: Professors at the University of Virginia noted that students tended to overestimate other students’ drinking and drinking-related negative behaviors, and launched a campaign to publicize the true facts. Over the six years of the study, students’ chances of experiencing any of 10 possible negative consequences of drinking nearly halved! Also, freshmen who were exposed to the campaign experienced nearly a 25% decline in negative drinking behaviors and excessive drinking episodes.

It seems to conclude that we live up (or down) to the standards we believe are set by "the norm," or the average people around us.

The behavior of people around us really can affect the standards we set for ourselves, and the way we live up to them.

Now, what to do: Find people in your life who have qualities and habits you’d like to develop, and get closer to them. Either ask people you admire for their best tips for success (“You always seem so serene!

What do you do to relieve stress?”) or just spend more time with them, and their positive habits will likely rub off.

You can also develop healthier habits using the buddy system: Get a friend who is also trying to make a positive change, and just check-in with each other once a week or so, and report your progress. This type of mutual support and positive peer pressure can help strengthen your motivation, and keep you from beating yourself up if you "fail." The "buddy system" can be used for all types of changes and challenges, from exercising more to trying to gossip less.

Turner J, Perkins HW, Bauerle J. Declining negative consequences related to alcohol misuse among students exposed to a social norms marketing intervention on a college campus. Journal of American College Health, July-August 2008.

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