Ancheta

Sometimes you can’t stand them, but most of the time, they make life better.

I’m talking about friends — good friends.

Studies have shown that good friends are good for your health. It takes a great deal of nurturing, un­derstanding, and accepting to build true friends. There is a sense of vulnerability when you truly bare your­self and connect with friends at a deeper level. It feels wonderful when you can just be yourself, without the egotistical pretense to im­press. Good times are much joyful when shared with friends and bad times are more bearable.

The experts assert that there is a connection be­tween health and friend­ship. Here are some of the health benefits (Mayo Clinic):

• Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.

• Boost your happiness and reduce your stress.

• Improve your self-confidence and self-worth.

• Help cope with trau­mas, such as divorce, ser­i­ous illness, job loss or the death of a loved one.

• Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy life­style habits, such as ex­ces­sive drinking or lack of exercise.

One study, reported in the Cancer journal participated by women with advanced ovar­ian cancer, showed that those with great so­cial support had much lower levels of a protein linked to more aggressive types of cancer and also boost­ed the effectiveness of che­mo­therapy. In 1989, Dr. David Spiegel, a professor of psychiatry in Stanford Uni­ver­sity, published a land­mark paper asserting that women with breast cancer who participated in a support group lived twice as long as those who didn’t and they also had much less pain.

Maintaining good friends takes time and effort. Friends can at times, cause you stress. But growing ev­id­ence of the benefits points to the fact that people with strong social connections feel more relaxed and at peace, which is related to better well-being and health.

There are no require­ments of how many friends should you have to reap the ben­efits. Quality is more im­port­ant than quantity, according to the experts. Per­son­al preference also mat­ters. While it’s good to cul­tivate a diverse network of friends, nurturing a few truly close friends who will be there through all the sorrows and joys are de­sir­able. The Mayo Clinic staff offers the following ideas where you may meet new peop­le who might become your friends:

• Attend community events — Get together with a group of people working tow­ard a goal you believe in, such as an election or the clean­up of a natural area. Find a group with similar in­ter­ests in an activity such as auto racing, gardening, read­ing or making crafts.

• Volunteer — offer your time or talents at a hos­pit­al, place of worship, mu­se­um, community center, char­it­able group or other or­gan­ization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.

• Extend and accept in­vi­tations — invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you’re invited to a so­cial gathering, say yes. Con­tact some who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.

• Take up a new in­ter­est — Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, se­nior center or community fit­ness facility.

• Join a faith community — take advantage of spe­cial activities and get-to-know-you events for new mem­bers.

• Take a walk — Grab your kids or pet and head out­side. Chat with neigh­bors who are also out and about or head to a pop­u­lar park and strike up con­ver­sa­tions.

You may not strike a con­versation with some­body you instantly like, nor will you pick up a best friend in your first events. Take a positive attitude and a friend­ly face. You will at­tract more of the same.

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