A longtime friend of our family is visiting, and it’s reminding me how important these people are in our lives. The instant warmth that surrounded each of us, including our dog, told a story I hadn’t considered before: the power of friendship must have an impact on our overall health in a way we may not even recognize. This realization sent me looking.
So what are the benefits of keeping in touch with people you can pick up with as if no time has passed—even if you haven’t laid eyes on each other for more than a year?
Friendship helps you cope with life. Whether they’re supporting you through those tough moments or helping you celebrate the happy ones, sharing life’s events with your friends provides a sense of relief that can relax your whole nervous system. Of course, a little stress isn’t a bad thing, but staying in a constant state of any intense emotion—positive or negative—can take its toll.
Friendship offers a sense of belonging. Even if you’re someone who only needs a handful of people in your circle of friends, it’s nice to have a sense of where you fit in. Common interests like music or a love of long walks keeps that connection going and gives you a feeling of where you belong in life.
Friends encourage healthy habits. Assuming you seek out friends who make you feel good, studies show that people with good social networks are more likely to make choices that have a positive impact on their health—helping them live longer. Spending time with people you can be yourself around can also help you ward off depression and other psychological concerns.
People with friends live longer lives. The same study showed that friendships affect our lives in a completely different way than strong family ties, which I found interesting. While both are important and help us navigate through life, solid friendships increase our longevity in a way that family doesn’t. When I think of my own family, or even close friends who’ve survived terrible ordeals because of their family’s loving actions, I’m not sure that’s true. But it’s amazing to realize that powerful friendships can sometimes rival what we experience in our family relationships.
It seems that developing and maintaining our friendships should be pretty high on our priority list if we’re interested living a robust life.
Who are the people you rely on for the power—healthy and otherwise—of friendship?