Friendships Aid Health

Many of us immediately think of family when we think of the holidays. But friendships are an integral part of living a happy life. According to research from Blue Zones, as we age, friendships become more essential to staying healthy than family. Blue Zones are the areas of the world where people often live to be 100 or older.

As we get older, we naturally tend to pare down our friend group and focus more on quality rather than quantity. For your health, it’s better to spend your time with people who bring out your best self and make you feel more energized when you see them. That’s a quality friend.

By quality, I mean relationships where you feel like you matter, you feel authentic and there’s reciprocity,” said Dr. Marisa Franco. She has literally written the book on the science of making and keeping healthy friendships. “Both people are considering their needs and the other person’s needs at the same time. As people focus on more quality connections, they end up being happier.”

It’s essential to be honest and open about your feelings. Too many relationships end over small hurts festering because people worry about conflict. However, discussing how you feel can help you talk about issues before they become problems that can ruin friendships.

On the other hand, it’s equally important to be open about your affection! Often, we’re worried about telling our friends how much we love them. But being vulnerable and telling your friends how much they mean to you is wonderful!

Dr. Franco explained that “Friendships can help decrease our blood pressure and cholesterol and there’s a study that says having a confidant is the number-one thing that is preventive against depression. So, your friends can literally save your life.”

Research from Harvard agreed, finding that close friendships add years of health to people’s lives.

Dr. Robert Waldinger explained, “What we find is that everybody needs somebody who they feel really has their back that they could go to, in times of need. But then beyond that, it could be friends, work relationships, even casual relationships, the person who checks you out in the grocery store, if you have a friendly conversation with that person, you get a little hit of well-being.”

He recommended checking in with the people you love and reconnecting with them, even by text or email. He pointed out that attention is its own form of love, so just spending time with people and listening to them is a gift this holiday season. Catching up with old friends and hearing about what you’ve missed can be fantastic for you and them!

Having good friends can improve both your body and your behavior! Healthy relationships can aid the function of your immune system. And your friends can impact your lifestyle behaviors — like making positive changes together or getting out of the house more to see them. Social isolation is linked to cognitive decline and a heightened risk of dementia. So, finding ways to connect and avoid loneliness is key to good health over the holidays and all year long!  

Banner image: Matt Barnard via Pexels

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