A Dose of Closeness
Connecting with friends is good medicine
FINDING OUT THAT FRIENDSHIPS are good for your
health is like learning that chocolate is the foundation of healthy
eating. How hard can it be to make something so enjoyable a
As much as you may want to put time with friends high on your
list of things to do, many other responsibilities vie for your
time: Work. Laundry. Family. Laundry. Kids' activities. (And
there's always laundry.)
But who's too busy to do something that keeps you happier,
healthier and more resilient to stress?
Connect with the Benefits
"Human beings have a very strong need to belong," says
Georgianna Donadio, Ph.D., program director of the National
Institute of Whole Health.
"Strong social networks give you a sense of purpose and
belonging that has a profound effect on your well-being."
Many research studies have linked being socially
integrated-participating in a broad range of social
relationships-with better physical and mental health. Socially
- Live longer
- Are more likely to survive heart attacks
- Have less risk of cancer recurrence
- Have less upper respiratory illness
- Have less depression and anxiety, and less severe cognitive
decline as they age
Stay Immune to Stress
Feeling connected to a social support network nurtures a healthy
immune system. First-year college students who felt lonely or were
socially isolated were less protected by the flu vaccine than other
students, according to a 2005 study in the
journal Health Psychology.
Chronically lonely people actually experience changes in genes
involved with immunity, according to a 2007 study in the
journal Genome Biology. This helps explain to
researchers why feeling isolated is linked with a higher risk of
heart disease, viral infections and cancer.
"Any time you reduce stress, you have less disease," Donadio
says. "Feeling that you have friends who care about you and people
whose lives you contribute to is a real stress-killer."
Find Friend Time
Sure, it can be tough for busy women to stay connected to their
friends. But what are you missing when you don't do it?
"I challenge people to ask themselves, 'What price am I paying
when I feel disconnected from my support system?'" says Corrie
Woods, women's self-care coach and author of The Woman's
Field Guide to Exceptional Living.
Say no to say yes. "Learn how to say no to things in your
current schedule so you can make time for friends," Woods says.
Decide what supports your overall well-being and make those things
Get goal oriented. Look for ways to achieve personal goals while
building relationships. Want to get fit or develop your creative
side? Set up a regular walking date with a friend, or get a group
together to sign up for drawing lessons.
Reach out for new connections. To meet new friends, take a
class, join a club or volunteer for a cause you believe in. "These
are great ways to meet like-minded people," Woods says.
Relax together. Schedule a girls' night out at your local Massage Envy Spa to get hot stone massage
at the same time. Extend the relaxation by going out for tea or
Choose to celebrate. Finally unpack that last box from your
move? Did your friend get a promotion? Is today your favorite
author's birthday? "Take note and observe the things that might
slide by unnoticed," Woods says. Any excuse to create a special
occasion gives you a reason to have fun with your friends.
-By Teresa Caldwell Board