The Surprising Health Benefits of Something You May Be Taking For Granted…. And It’s Never Been More Important
By Martha Gamboa
December 10, 2020
In these crazy times, it’s easy to get caught up in what former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower referred to the “urgent but not important” aspects of our daily lives. While our laundry hampers and car repairs and grocery lists matter, it’s all too easy to focus on these details at the expense of what’s most important: our mental and physical health.
And how can we support this often fragile, but always relevant priority?
The answer may surprise you. Along with eating right, avoiding smoking and other harmful habits, getting appropriate medical care when needed and wearing a seatbelt, maintaining one simple thing may be the key towards a long, healthy and satisfying life.
Health Benefits of Friendship
Studies have shown over and over that having friends has surprising health benefits. And is good for our health, no matter what life throws at us. Maintaining these friendships with regular contact not only improves our mental states, but also has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower body mass index and even reduce the symptoms of cardiovascular disease! Researchers have found that friendships and other forms of social support lower stress levels, leading to less arterial inflammation and subsequent atherosclerosis. Furthermore, friendship may also encourage healthier eating, better exercise habits and cessation of smoking. No matter what their physical challenges, adults with strong social networks live longer than their less social peers.
Despite the evidence, it can be hard for adults to find others with whom to connect. Working, caring family members and simply getting lost in the “urgent but not important” aspects of our daily lives may understandably take precedence.
Cultivating Social Networks
That’s why it’s so important to make time to cultivate relationships with others. Truly one of the health benefits of friendship. Whatever your situation, it’s likely that there are other people very near you who are going through very similar challenges or experiences.! Find things to do that you love. Participate in these activities you enjoy and reach out to those who are enjoying them too. Take the initiative to connect with people. Pick up the phone and call a friend, organize a Zoom social hour, or invite someone to go on a walk practicing social distance protocols or go alone to volunteer in a community setting with others.
Our work is important, and our families even more so. And of course we should all do our laundry, and service our cars, and make sure we have plenty of dish soap. But most of us could use a few hours less a week surfing recipes on the computer, and instead connecting with others. It’s good fun, and it’s good self-care.
Martha Gamboa is the founder of GoDoSocial, a platform for adults age 40+ to connect and meet new friends. Comments? Questions? E-mail me at Martha@godosocial.com
Rutledge, T. et al. Social networks are associated with lower mortality rates among women with suspected coronary disease: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-Sponsored Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation Study. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2004. 66:882-888.
Reblin, M. and B.N. Uchino. Social and emotional support and its implications for health. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2008. 21: 201-205.