Friendships: Enrich your life and boost your health!
‘Tell me thy company and I shall tell thee what thou art.’ Miguel de Cervantes
It’s not enough to just eat your veggies, move your body, get enough sleep, drink water, have regular checkups and manage stress with relaxation, recreation and meditation…. No! Did you know that people generally live longer, happier, healthier lives if they have a strong network of support from friends and family?? Turns out, social isolation may actually be one of the biggest risk factors for human mortality. Those with the fewest social ties are the most likely to suffer from heart disease, anxiety, depression and were especially prone to accidents and suicide.
But how many of us really think about our friendships when we consider what it means to be healthy?
The seriously good side of having good friends:
In good company we release more oxytocin, the love hormone, which has a marked groovy calming effect. Friendship is an excellent tonic for improving sleep quality, increasing our sense of belonging and purpose, warding off depressions and boosting happiness, reducing stress, improving self-worth and can lend valued support to help you cope with traumas such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one. Good friendships seem to be especially helpful for the heart.
Numerous studies also show that recovery from a major health challenge, such as a heart attack or cancer, is enhanced because of friendship.
It’s no surprise then, that most people greatly value their friends and often turn to them first in times of crisis, sometimes before partners or family. Friends are among the few significant others that we actually choose ourselves. Maintaining friendships can be hard during the middle years, when work and family often take higher priority – but it’s certainly worth the effort. Also, as we age, we tend to become more selective in our choice of friends, spending more time with people we like.
Therefore, make friends and keep those friendships in good repair.
Reduced stress: is one of the greatest gifts of friendship. Talking with and leaning on friends really can help you get through troublesome times. Research also suggests that the nervous system actually registers social exclusion as physical pain. Healthy, nurturing friendships allow people to express their emotions openly, feel that the other person listens and resolve disagreements by talking them out in a constructive way.
Friends can give you a cognitive boost: Through friendly chit-chat over intellectual things or solving random puzzles. Those 75 years old and older who keep in contact with a variety of friends and relatives have a lower risk of developing dementia.
A healthy bunch of friends can help you in delaying the ageing process especially when combined with physical exercise and a feeling of control in one’s life. Friends can influence you to make positive health changes in your life. Working out together has the added keeps you committed to your workout plan. Friends can also encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking, smoking or lack of exercise. Surround yourself with a mature group of people who want you to live a long and healthy life.
Getting Over Disease More Quickly If you do get sick or need surgery, friends can help you rebound and heal more quickly. Good friends will help lessen the emotional burden of life-threatening illnesses.
Earlier Detection Friends can persuade you that symptoms, such as fatigue, weight loss, mole changes, emotional issues, addiction or less accurate hearing or sight, warrant a checkup. Friends want us to be healthy and to be around for a long time.
Promote and maintain healthy friendships.
It’s important to nurture friendships, to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends. Giving support to friends may be as good for a person’s health and well-being as receiving it.
Our challenge is in building and keeping the kind of connections that truly make life better. It’s not always easy to build or maintain friendships, any time two people are involved things are bound to get complicated!
Good and bad friendships : Some friends reliably lift your mood and ease your troubles, but others may have had a knack for making you feel worse. Clearly, not all types of friendship are good for your health, some friendships can be stressful and even destructive. So, choose wisely.
Building new friendships: You will not become friends with everyone you meet, but it’s worthwhile maintaining a friendly attitude to improve the relationships in your life. Maybe you strike gold and find an unexpected friend in an unexpected place, long-lasting bonds can form from seemingly simple activities! Try starting conversations with someone from your workplace or work-out place, do coffee, accept invites, volunteer, attend community events, try interest groups such as toast masters, gardening, reading or making crafts; take a college or community education course, join a faith community. And don’t be afraid to show up alone—you’ll be more likely to introduce yourself to new people without the safety net of arriving with a group.
How does social media affect friendships? Joining an online community might help you make or maintain connections and relieve loneliness but this doesn’t necessarily translate to a larger offline network or closer offline relationships with network members. Facebook, Skype and Whats App allow friends to communicate easily even if miles apart. Spotify lets you share music mixes too.
Does friendship with animals count? Evidence of beneficial interaction between animals and us grows. A big part of the benefit of companion animals appears to be reductions in stress, anxiety and loneliness. Dog and cat owners have been found to make fewer annual visits to their GP and are less likely to be on medication for heart problems and sleeping difficulties. Horse and dolphin therapies show promising results to connect with many misunderstood folk.
What’s a healthy number of friends? Some people benefit from a large and diverse network of friends, while others prefer a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances. Overall, the quality of your relationships is more important than the number of friends you have.
Consider one of your 2016 resolutions to strengthen or create quality relationships in your life….
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
Do you know the song of a friend’s heart? Do they know yours??
What qualities make amazing friendships??
Mutual understanding and compassion
Enjoyment of each other’s company
Equality – equal give and take.
Listening from the heart – empathy
Positivity – Laughter is infectious and appealing.
The desire for what is best for the other, no place for competition
The ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes, change and grow without fear of judgment in each other’s company.