The Health Benefits of Friendship
Did you know that National Friendship Day is coming up on August 4th? Are you wondering why I even care? Because social connection is one of, if not THE most important factors in health and longevity. Good old face-to-face hanging out and socializing. You know, friendship. Here are some of the ways that spending time with our friends benefits our health:
Spending time with friends has been shown to decrease your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Whether it is sharing the burden of your troubles or just relaxing and having fun, social connection helps to lower stress and improve mood.
Sharpens Your Mind
A feeling of loneliness may be associated with increased risk of Alzhiemer’s disease. In a 2012 study in the Netherlands, researchers found that those who reported feeling lonely at the beginning of the study period were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. It is interesting to note that it was the perception of loneliness that was the factor here, not necessarily the reality of being isolated.
People with strong friendships tend to have better immune systems and inflammatory responses than those who don’t. This reduces the risk of acute illness, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and even helps wounds to heal more quickly.
This one seems obvious, but you can really ramp up the benefits by hanging out with people who are quite happy themselves. It really does rub off! So does spending time with those who are less happy, so you may want to avoid those Debbie Downers.
Improves Overall Health
Friends make us happy, happy people tend to make better lifestyle choices, and having a good circle of friends can help keep you “on the wagon,” whatever that wagon may be. Friends can also lead you down the path of destruction, but are those really your friends? Stick with those who lift you up and help make you a better person and you’ll see the benefits!
Extends Your Life
You may have heard of the research on “Blue Zones,” the areas in the world with the highest concentration of people who live to be 100+ years old. There have been many reports on the foods they eat (and don’t eat), and the types of exercise they tend to do. But perhaps the most important factor in these centenarian’s lives is that they have surrounded themselves with friends and family who share the same values. They often offer and receive help from those around them, and take good care of each other. They are also more able to express their feelings to their friends and family.
These are just a few of the benefits of spending time with your good friends. Next time you are hanging out with your friends, see what other benefits you find. I’d love to hear what they are.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go improve my health. My friends are waiting.
PS. If you were wondering, social media has not been shown to have the same benefits. So get out there and spend time with your friends in the real world!