Friends: The Physical and Emotional Health Benefits
A recent article in Time Magazine revealed that friends not only make us feel good but positively impact our health. Socially isolated people are twice as likely to die from heart disease than those with a solid social circle. Strong relationships also support mental health, which ties into our immune functions and reduces stress.
With the onslaught of social media, it may seem like making friends is easier than ever before. However, virtual friends do not predict one’s health or happiness. The close friends that you can hug and laugh with are the ones that make the most impact. According to research, you need three to five good friends for optimal well-being. The number of Americans who say they have no close friends has tripled in recent surveys. Adult men especially struggle to create and maintain friendships. A study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that making a good friend takes an investment of at least 50 hours.
A friendship deepens with each increment of time. Therefore, making friends is a process of investing time. You move in increments from acquaintance to extremely close friends depending on the amount of time you spend together. In a time when everyone is so busy, taking time for your friend is challenging but crucial. Here are some suggestions that can help you stay connected to your friend:
Take a 20 to 30 minute break to talk to them on the phone or meet them for a coffee.
Send texts to each other throughout the week to let them know you are thinking of them. This can give a psychological boost no matter how well or bad your day is going.
If your friend is ill, let them know you are there to help. Consider grabbing groceries for them or bringing over dinner. When one friend is down, the other should reach out.
Look for ways you and your friend can support each other. If both have children, include the kids, or if you both have pets, take them with you. Investing time is easier if you don’t feel neglectful of other responsibilities at home.
No matter what is going on in your life, include your friends as part of your extended family.
Always continue to make new friends. Life happens and things change but maintaining friends – both old and new – is more than random luck. It’s an investment of time, awareness, and appreciation.