Friends can challenge us, baffle us, and during the difficult times we might wonder why we even bother but ultimately, the friendships we make are just as important to our well-being as eating well and working out. Good friendships are imperative to our positive mental health and more-so, friendships take us through the most important stages o our lives and as we grow, so do they. Friendship is key to our success with all our relationships and it can create a sense of purpose in our lives.

The people we bring into our lives as friends will show us how to forgive, laugh, and make conversation. The foundation of any successful relationship, from our marriage to our colleagues, are all rooted in friendship. We don’t just talk with others but learn from them. We understand the process of meeting new acquaintances and finding out what makes them tick. These people help push us out of our comfort zones while still providing a safe emotional space for us to be totally ourselves.

Friends allow us to handle stress, make better lifestyle choices that keep us strong, and allow us to rebound from health issues more quickly.

Friendship is even more important to our mental well-being. One study even suggested spending time with positive friends can actually change your outlook completely. That means we are instantly happier when we choose to spend time with happy people. Their temperament is infectious.

The impact of good friendships on us is undeniable but what do we do when a friendship doesn't go the way we had hoped and instead of being nourished, we are drained, insecure and sad.

Like all bad things, toxic friendships do not always start off that way. Oftentimes, they start off just like any other friendship but soon enough, the cracks start to show.

Friends are allowed to make mistakes but you're starting to feel like your "BFF" is no longer the best thing for you, chances are you are caught up in a toxic friendship.

These kind of friendships have a tendency to sneak up on people because the signs are often subtle. But generally, a toxic friendship does more emotional harm to you than it helps you.

You can tell a friend is toxic when they tend to cause stress and sadness or anxiety and do not help you be the person you want to be. Even more so, a toxic friendship can make you doubt yourself and attack your self-confidence.

So how do you break the cycle and make sure you get out of that toxic friendship for good?

1. Fade them out

If may feel like you have simply grown apart or you find yourself wanting to spend time with other friends, you can try slowly fading out the friendship. It's the least confrontational approach and can feel the most natural for both parties.

Here's how you can successfully fade out a toxic friend:

  • Don’t message, email or call them.
  • If they get in touch with you, you could leave it a few days before you get back to them.
  • Avoid hanging out with them, by giving them a polite excuse that won't look too suspicious.
  • Try being less accommodating than usual, so that your friend might not want to spend as much time with you.
  • If you're often at each other's houses, suggest you do something completely different that they might not be into.

However, this is not as easy as it sounds and often, toxic friends tend to be quite clingy, even more so when they feel you pulling away. If they do become extra clingy, you may need to up the ante and formally ending the friendship.

2. Formally end the friendship

This involves sitting down with the person and letting them know that the friendship is over for good. This is quite a difficult option and requires a lot of guts. It's no different from breaking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. This method is for those people who are more straightforward and do not want to leave room for doubt.

Remember, just like any other breakup, the place and time of the conversation are important. Try having it somewhere neutral, maybe in a restaurant or a shopping center that’s halfway between the two of you.

In the wake of the friendship ending, despite it being a bad situation for you, you may need emotional support. Set up a plan for things you can do when you’re feeling low, or other friends you can hang out with when you need some company.

3. Completely drop them

This is by far the most drastic option and it's for those whose friendships have become mentally and physically abusive. If your friend is bullying you or pressuring you, you don’t owe them and are free to remove yourself from a situation that no longer benefits you. Their behaviour is not okay, and you have the right to remove yourself from the situation.

In order to drop them, delete them from Facebook or anywhere they might be able to contact you. It's a complete blackout.

Cutting off a friendship can have huge consequences and your ex-friend may become aggressive and even violent. In the process, you may even lose some mutual friends as your group takes sides but ensure you make people aware of the situation and have them there for you as support.