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.