“Choose your friends wisely”, mom and dad said when you were a child.

That advice may have been absolutely correct. You are influenced by your peers, even more than you know.

In fact, hang around long enough with someone and your brain waves will start to look almost identical, some research seems to suggest.

Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist, says in a recent interview with Business Insider,

“The more we study engagement, we see time and again that just being next to certain people actually aligns your brain with them,” based on their mannerisms, the smell of the room, the noise level, and many other factors.

“This means the people you hang out with actually have an impact on your engagement with reality beyond what you can explain. And one of the effects is you become alike.

“He says that people should “surround themselves with people who embody the traits they prefer. Over time, they will naturally pick up those desirable attitudes and behaviors.”

Of course, it’s common sense that what you consume, whether it is food or entertainment (like television shows, movies or books) or education (a history course for example), affects you. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise–essentially our worlds are filled with education and/or propaganda.

Friends are important to our happiness, something that’s easily overlooked when we’re focused on career choices, professional work life, money issues, physical health, lifestyle, etc.

Children innately know that friendships are a significant part of life; one of the most painful states in childhood is being friendless. As we get older, even though we may spend a lot of time with friends, they can be seen as the backdrop to what is going on in our lives rather than a central focus.

Women seem to recognize how important friendship is to them more than men, and are more willing to talk about it. But the kinds of friends we have (and choose) can actually change us.

Looking back on my life and friendships, I see growth in this area. When I was younger, the athletic teams I was on were one of a few important sources of my friendships. As I became older, intellectual and spiritual interests led to new friendships, which had an impact on my thinking and belief system. Yes, my friends changed me. And I changed them.

Even something as simple as a book recommendation by a friend can change us, how much more so as spending time in the company of someone who challenges and engages you.

Think about the friends you have. It’s okay to have different types of friendships and different types of friends. Think about the kind of person you want to be–do your friends reflect your ideal in at least some ways?

More on friends, coming soon…