When women get together to focus on a shared activity—anything from knitting to helping the needy—transformation can occur. Studies have shown that the more meaningful connections we have, the longer we live. Friendships feed our soul and ease pain on every level.
According to recent research people with strong social relationships increased their odds of survival over a certain time period by 50 percent. That’s on par with ceasing smoking, and nearly twice as beneficial as physical activity in terms of decreasing your odds of dying early.
A 2015 analysis on compiled data on more than 3.4 million people across 70 studies, found that the absence of social connections carried the same health risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness led to worse outcomes than obesity. And the findings held true for people of all ages. Adults with strong social support had a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
WHY ARE FRIENDSHIPS BENEFICIAL?
The conclusion is that friendships are linked to health through the body’s processing of stress.
Close relationships help us withstand stressful events in our lives because we know we have someone we can turn to. They might also influence us to take better care of ourselves or take fewer risks. For example, our friends might encourage us to eat better, exercise, get more sleep or visit the doctor.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR FRIENDSHIPS
Quality counts more than quantity.While it’s good to cultivate a diverse network of friends and acquaintances, nurture a few truly close friends who will be there for you through thick and thin.
It’s as good to give as receive.Deep friendships involve give-and-take. Sometimes you’re the one giving support, and other times you’re on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond.
Connections count.Research indicates that even casual connections provide health benefits. Get out there—talk to people, compliment your co-worker, and say hello to that person you pass every day.
Make new friends.Connections evolve through life changes like divorce and career moves. Continually making new friends means you’re less likely to find yourself feeling stressed and alone. Be open to developing new friendships throughout your life.
So, go on, rekindle old friendships, strengthen weakened friendships and develop new friendships. You just might find yourself not only happier, but healthier.