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Friendships Are Good For Your Health - So Treasure Them.

February 08, 2018

The Importance of a Good Friend

By: Carolyn Robbins RN, MSN, CSN

Lucy and Ethel, Bert and Ernie, Will and Grace, Joey and Chandler are all good buddies. All of these iconic characters have great chemistry, but what makes these pairs so relatable? Perhaps they remind you of real-life friends who support, love, speak truth, encourage and care for one another.

Friendships are a part of our lives. Friendships are important. Friendships are vital to our health. Pastor John Ortberg, in his book, Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them, cites research that supports the importance of good friends to our health. He concludes that, "It is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone". Not that I am encouraging people to binge on Twinkies, cheesesteaks, or a lot of nachos but the essence of this statement highlights that having good, loving, true friends is essential to overall well-being.

More specifically, how do friends help our health? Here are some benefits:

  • They provide a sense of connection and decrease isolation and loneliness.
  • They increase happiness and lessen stress.
  • They support healthy lifestyle habits: nutrition, exercise, etc.
  • They reduce risky health behaviors: drinking, drugs, over eating.
  • People with good friends have stronger immune systems.
  • Friends help improve confidence and a sense of belonging.
  • Good friends help to decrease depression, decrease blood pressure, and may improve longevity.

The Characteristics of a True Friend

Good friends are those who laugh, cry, support, and encourage us. They truly listen, challenge, hold us accountable, and help us to be our best selves. Good friends lift us up and speak the truth without tearing us down. We can call good friends at 3:00 AM in an emergency and they will be there for us. They are those people with whom we can be authentic and vulnerable.

Brené Brown describes the essential qualities for strong connections in her TEDtalk on vulnerability (link below). She maintains that we are vulnerable when we believe in our own worthiness. When we believe we are worthy, we are able to care more, listen better, and be more empathetic.

Developing a Strong Friendship

Developing good friends takes time. The cultivation of friendships requires many little moments that include face-time, going places together, and working and serving together. In an age of social networking, it is noted that online social networks do not necessarily translate to a face-to-face interaction. Therefore, social networks can help to communicate and share information on a broader spectrum, but they are not the best source to develop a meaningful friendship.

So here's a question: Do you have that 3:00 AM friend? That friend who you can call at any hour for support? Do you have at least one person who you can be authentic and vulnerable with? If so, call them and say "thanks for our friendship and for being an encouraging part of my life". Gratitude goes a long way and reminds us of the joys in our lives.

If you are longing to meet new people and to cultivate more friendships, here are some more thoughts:

  • Regularly volunteer for an organization that you are passionate about.
  • Join a club or go to a regular class.
  • Arrange a lunch date.
  • Invite a friend to the movies.
  • Join a faith community and get involved.
  • Join a gym.
  • Take a stroll and chat with neighbors.

Remember, developing friends takes time and persistence. To develop friends, it requires mindful listening, caring, empathy, and strong communication. If you have good friends, cultivate those friendships. If you want to develop new friendships, take some of the steps above to begin a journey of connection. Multiple friends are not essential, one or two good friends are a blessing. Treasure those people and cherish your friendships, they are great for your health!

 

Brené Brown's TEDtalk




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