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Friends come into your life in many different ways. Some seem present almost from the start, while you gain others as you go about life. But no matter how you form the connection — through life circumstance or a particular experience — friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. On your best and worst days, this deeply rooted support system can provide you strength, calm your mind and soothe your spirit.
Friendship Benefits Your Body
Many studies suggest that spending time with friends has proven physiological effects on your body. In fact, there seems to be a direct link between having a strong support system and:
- Better heart health
- Decreased risk of depression
- Healthier blood pressure
- Lower BMI
- Reduced stress
In fact, researchers say those with strong social bonds can even live longer. In a long-term Harvard study, people who were most satisfied with their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
Friends Can Encourage Healthy Habits
Many people who feel lonely or isolated turn to addictive and unhealthy habits to feel better, such as drugs, smoking or drinking. The good news is that healthy habits can be contagious. If you form close friendships with people who live a healthy lifestyle, eat well and exercise often, chances are you will, too. If you need a nudge toward better fitness, here are some ideas:
- Challenge each other to start eating a healthier diet and share recipes
- Instead of catching up over coffee or lunch, meet up to walk or run
- Join a gym together and coordinate going to classes or workouts
- Sign up to reach a common goal, like a 5K or a mini-triathlon
Your furry friends can also make a difference in our physical health. By getting out to walk your dog, you also open up the possibility of meeting new people in your neighborhood and chatting with neighbors you already know.
Friendship Benefits Your Mind
Whether in school pushing you on a path toward better grades and higher goals, at work offering fresh perspective or at home acting as a sounding board, your friends meet you wherever you are in life.
Sharing a common bond can go a long way toward finding comfort, support
and helpful information. If you’ve been through a difficult time or are suffering from an illness for example, consider joining a support group. You’ll learn tips about coping with the disease physically and mentally from those who’ve been there.
AdventHealth offers numerous support groups covering topics, such as grief, cancer, parenting, dementia and brain injuries. To get more information, please check with a facility near you or your primary care provider.
Friendship Benefits Your Spirit
You lean on your friends during the toughest and the happiest of times.
While friends often support us during these occasions with practical needs – child care, meals, household help, rides – they also can be spiritual partners, listening to our deepest concerns and supporting us in prayer.
Aside from that, our friends play a key role in increasing our confidence, self-esteem, well-being and sense of belonging. They guide, listen and advocate for us.
Stay Connected, Friendship Matters
Today, social media allows you to keep in touch with long-distance friends and those from many stages of your life. While that offers its own comfort and camaraderie, be sure not to swap Facebook messaging and texts for face-to-face conversations and experiences.
Because of your busy schedule, you may have to be deliberate about setting aside time for friends. But with all the ways they can make a difference in your life and health, it’s important to invest in your friendships as an important part of your health journey.