Who laughs when you laugh, cries with you, kicks your butt when you need it and calms you down when you are enraged? If your answer is your best friend (which may in fact, be your spouse!), you’d be in good company and likely, enjoying some significant health benefits as a result. If your answer is “No one”, well…the research ain’t good. The impact on your health is also significant, but not in a good way. It turns out that the #1 way to be happier, healthier and live longer is to be connected socially! Who knew your bestie could do that?!?
According to The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier (Susan Pinker, 2014), life expectancy can increase by 15 years if you have a good circle of friends and supports. But that’s not all! Research has shown that people with friends that get together regularly to eat, have fun or just visit may also have a better chance of beating cancer, recovering from a cardiac event and keeping dementia at bay. In fact, relationships are 3 times more effective than exercise in promoting good health! Of course, a good chin wag should not be a substitute for getting regular exercise but imagine the health impact of exercising with friends. Now that’s big bang for your buck!
So in this day of social media and on-line connecting, aren’t we actually connecting more? Realistically, would you have a relationship with your cousin Bob’s, uncle’s nephew’s, sister’s daughter’s son if not for Facebook?!? Likely not, but on-line relationships are no substitute for a living, breathing support whose eyes you can look into, whose arms can hug you and whose energy you can feel. These social media contacts DO NOT enhance health; and may take us away from things that ACTUALLY affect well-being; like being with people who we care about.
When it comes to work-based social relationships, the news is the same; work-based friendships improve our health, quality of work life, productivity and the bottom line for businesses. It’s a win-win-win! Hate the people you work with? Well, that’s a situation that will directly affect your health too, for the worse. Daily stress and unhappiness is the fast-track to disease and illness. So cultivate those friendships, find something to like about someone and try to see more of the good qualities than the bad. You can only benefit health-wise from such efforts.
If you are someone who doesn’t make friends easily, there is hope for you too! Research shows that involvement in community groups with a similar purpose can improve health as well. Organizations such as volunteer groups, choirs, sports teams and churches have a positive effect on well-being for those involved.
Take home message:
1. Get a bestie. It could literally SAVE YOUR LIFE!
2. Take my advice; get off your device, get face-to-face with friends at your place! (yup I made a rhyme!)
3. Get involved with a community group
4. Make a friend at work. Put some effort in here, it’s worth it!