Life can be busy. You may feel pulled in a million directions, with little time to devote to spending time or interacting with friends. But friendship, as it turns out, is a vital part of staying happy and healthy.
Believe it or not, friendship offers a number of health benefits.
“It’s important to focus on your total health, including your physical, mental and emotional health,” says Elizabeth Jones, APRN and family medicine nurse practitioner with West Tennessee Healthcare. “Friendship actually helps to promote optimal health in all three of those areas, so it’s well worth devoting time to our friends.”
What exactly are those health benefits? Let’s take a deeper dive!
Friendship’s Health Benefits
Friends typically bring joy to our lives starting at a young age, but what else does friendship offer? Well, there are four major benefits:
Friendship Helps Keep You Social
This may feel like common sense, but the socialization aspect of friendship is very important. That’s because isolation and a lack of socialization have been shown to be as dangerous to your health as some health conditions.
It’s a serious issue, actually. There are both physical and mental health risks attached with a lack of socialization—and isolation and loneliness can make you more likely to smoke or abuse alcohol.
Spending time with friends, even in small intervals, can help reduce the risk of isolation. Friendship is also known to help you build social skills, which can help you stay socially active now and in the future.
Friendship Helps You Reduce Stress
This may seem a little counterintuitive, since friends can sometimes be the source of stress. But in a healthy friendship, spending time with your friends can help reduce stress.
We mentioned above that friendship provides socialization, which is super important for our health. That socialization, in turn, lowers stress, which then lowers your blood pressure. That’s a win all around!
Time spent with friends is an effective method of stress management, just as any activity you enjoy can be. So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, carve out some time to spend with friends.
Friendship Can Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Peer pressure is a powerful force. You learn all about it—and its harmful effects—at a young age. But it can also have a positive impact.
That’s because friends, especially like-minded ones, can be a good influence. They serve as a reinforcement for positive and healthy lifestyle habits.
That may include the “buddy system,” too. You may find you’re more successful at building and keeping healthy habits if your friend goes along for the ride. Hit up group exercise classes together, head to restaurants that serve healthy food options, or simply devote some time to self-care with a trip to the local nail salon.
Are you a smoker but want to quit? That’s another thing friendship can help with! You’re 36 percent more likely to quit smoking if your friends quit, too.
Friendship Boosts Happiness
When it comes to your health, your mental and emotional health are every bit as important as your physical health. So you need to prioritize them, too!
Part of that is taking up activities and habits that promote happiness. Friendship can help you do that.
Spending time with friends in and of itself can help you be happier—particularly if the friends you’re spending time with are happy and positive. But friendship also promotes happiness and good mental and emotional health by helping you feel as if you truly belong.
Friends can also help improve your self-confidence and boost your self-worth, as well as provide you with a sense of purpose. Those are some vital components of happiness!
Friendship in the Time of Social Distancing
While interacting with our friends is beneficial to our health and well-being, it isn’t always possible—and sometimes isn’t advisable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of friendship while still staying socially distant.
In fact, there are many ways you can stay social during a time of recommended social distancing. First and foremost, remember that even when you can’t be literally face to face, you can still have face-to-face interaction.
Set up a friendship date and FaceTime each other. While phone calls and texts are great for quick touchpoints, there’s nothing quite like seeing the expression on a friend’s face. This type of interaction can help keep you feeling physically and mentally stimulated and strong, even when times feel stressful.
Think outside the box, too! You don’t have to just use FaceTime and video conferencing as ways to chat. You can also have virtual happy hours, have a movie night together, participate in an online workout, or even cook “together.”
Friendship is an important component in maintaining good health—and so are checkups! If it’s been awhile since your last checkup, schedule one today. Find a provider here.