What does friendship mean to you? Friends can signify good times, laughter and drinks or tears, hugs and shoulders. Often, friendships come with a pinch of drama and gossip. You may not have thought about this before, but a good friendship can actually help you to stay healthy and live longer.
Research has showed that isolation is a significant risk factor for death, following smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, having strong connections can decrease the risk of heart attacks, autoimmune disorders and cancer. Social interactions can help boost our mental health and combat depression and anxiety, leading to overall positive effects on health.
The point of this month’s message is to encourage us to rekindle our friendships. We all lead immensely busy lives, and with the burden of professional, educational and familial duties, it is easy to isolate ourselves into a life of individualism or one that revolves around our nuclear units. If you can relate to this feeling and think that you have not seen a friend or had a silly conversation with no meaning and no end, then I strongly encourage that you find a friend to do this with! Here are some thoughts:
- A coffee or drinks date with a friend can take place in between your errands and other responsibilities. Even a half-hour chit-chat session can have its benefits.
- If you find yourself distanced from your old friends, try to kindle a new friendship with someone you may have met recently and connected with well.
- Join that cooking class or book club that you have always meant to do and spend some time with people that share your interests.
- In-person interactions are more beneficial than texting or phone conversations, so try to carve out some time for those quality meet ups.
- Friends can help you to approach your problems in a different way that can help you to problem-solve, so if you are going through a rough patch, reach out to a friend that you know cares even if you would rather remain in the shadows.
- You may find that your partner and/or children develop friendships with your friends’ family members, so your friendships can help to create a greater community.
- It is also true that not all connections are worth your energy. So, if you find yourself feeling down or drained after an interaction, step back and re-evaluate this relationship. A bad friendship can be just as detrimental for your health as a good friendship is beneficial.
The key is to seek out and build friendships with people who share your morals and values and add meaning, happiness and comfort to your life rather than detract from it with stress and conflict. So, this summer, take advantage of the lovely warm days and long nights by re-kindling old friendships or creating new ones over a shopping date, picnic in the park or camping trip!