Friendships can be a mysterious thing. I’m not talking about those on social media. I’m talking about real friendships that involve shared life experiences. Some can, well … not be the best of choices. We’ve all had at least one of those. And they should be tossed like bad fruit from the fridge. But most friendships are wonderful, enriching relationships. So much so, that they are literally beneficial to our health and well-being!
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” — Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
Friendships have a way of lifting us up, inspiring us and keeping us sane. That’s not my opinion. That’s medical fact. Friends provide social support, during difficult times. Talking with a friend is a way of coping, though we may not see it as such. That alone makes us more self-sufficient, resilient, etc. We are more hopeful — happier. Less lonely. Less stressed by whatever drama is unfolding in our lives. And that leads to less anxiety, less depression. We have better feelings of self-worth, purpose, etc. Overall, better mental health.
Friends can encourage us to live healthier. Friends share things like exercise, hobbies, even diets with us. Friends know our weaknesses. They understand our strengths. We understand theirs. We all benefit from a healthier lifestyle, i.e. weight loss, lower blood-pressure, more energy, better mobility, etc. If your Chronic illness is effected by one of these (and many are), imagine how much better you’ll feel. Friendships have this ability. The Journal of Oncology even published a study of women with breast cancer. Those who had 10 or more close friends were four times more likely to survive their illness than those who did not. Wow!
As we age, friendships become even more vital. Research tells us that seniors with an abundant social life are more likely to live longer. Being socially connected even protects the brain from developing dementia. That translates to a better quality of life — a healthier one.
So, stay in-touch. Re-connect with old friends. Get out and meet new ones. The effort is well worth it. And remember … quality friendships are more valuable than quantity. This isn’t a sports competition. If your “meeting skills” are a bit rusty, try these options:
- Look for groups/clubs that have an interest or hobby you share. These groups are often listed in the newspaper or on community bulletin boards.
- Volunteer at your place of worship, museums, community centers, charities, or other organizations. We can build strong connections when working with people who share our interests.
- Invite a friend/acquaintance to have coffee, or go to lunch. They will usually return the favor. Accept invitations to social functions.
- Start a new hobby, exercise, take a college class, etc. It’s a great way to meet people.
- Go for a walk. Take your pet to a dog park. It allows you to interact with others and make new friends.
It’s never too late in life for friendships. In fact, their fun and rewarding. And, as we now know, they’re also downright healthy. So, go for it!
*Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash