Do you want to improve your mental and physical health? What if there was a way to do so without changing your diet or exercise program? There is — just phone a friend!
The health benefits of friendship are many, and you don’t need to invest much time or money to reap the rewards. Here’s how your BFF and tribe keep you looking and feeling your best, and how you can repay the favor while cultivating a positive circle.
What Are the Health Benefits of Friendship?
One significant health benefit of friendship is that it helps ease stress. You always have someone to kvetch with and lift your spirits when you feel down.
A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that folks with social support had lower cholesterol levels and improved their immune function. These findings led researchers to believe that one of the health benefits of friendship is mitigating stress.
If you have a chronic condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, a strong friendship circle can increase your chances of a longer, healthier life. One meta-analysis of several studies analyzed over 300,000 individuals and found that those with social ties had a 50% higher chance of survival — more than the benefits of exercise.
Your friends can even help you with your weight loss journey, even if they aren’t personal trainers or nutritionists. One study of teenagers discovered that while overweight youth are twice as likely to have friends with extra padding, the converse is also true. Why? Because you tend to emulate the behaviors of those with whom you spend time.
Eight Ways to Cultivate a Positive Friendship Circle
If you want to cultivate an uplifting and positive friendship circle, you need to put in a bit of work. Fortunately, you’ll have as much fun participating in these activities as the new members of your tribe.
1. Reach Out
Many people struggle with loneliness, but they make the problem worse by not making the first move. Like dating, forming stronger friendship bonds often requires taking the initiative. Pick up the phone and text or call that colleague you keep meaning to ask for tea. Reach out to your undergrad roommate if you haven’t spoken in ages.
2. Get Fit Together
Remember that bit about emulating healthy habits? Research shows that working out with a friend makes you more likely to stick to your exercise program. You might opt for Netflix over the elliptical, but not if your BFF awaits you at the gym.
3. Schedule Uninterrupted Time
If the only time you get together is during playdates, when the littles enjoy interrupting your conversations so much, you might never progress past your discussion of the best diaper brands. To strengthen your bond, host a “girls’ night” where all attendees leave their children with the sitter.
4. Brush Up on Your Writing Skills
Social distancing might mean you don’t see your pals as often as you like. You can still reap the health benefits of friendship through the written word. It doesn’t matter if you prefer email or old-fashioned letter-writing — corresponding through messages can bring you closer.
Volunteering increases the brain chemicals oxytocin and serotonin, both of which improve your mood. This cheerful outlook makes it easier to approach others. You can meet individuals who are passionate about the same causes.
6. Sign Up
Have you always talked about taking belly dance lessons or joining a guided nature hike to explore native flora? Sign up. If you go solo, you can meet new people, or bring your BFF to deepen your bond.
7. Show Up
To reap the health benefits of friendship, you need to reciprocate. Have you always admired Barb in Accounting? If you would like to get to know her better, RSVP “yes” to her next Pampered Chef party invitation.
8. Perform Random Acts of Kindness
Is one of your friends struggling through a challenging life transition, such as a divorce or a move? Ask how you can help — even if you can’t lift a couch, can you help pack boxes? Plus, an unexpected gift, like a bath set or a new tea mug, costs little but can bring a smile to a blue face.
Reap the Health Benefits of Friendship and Improve Your Well-Being
Reaping the health benefits of friendship means forming a positive circle. Use the tips above to cultivate your tribe and enhance your well-being, starting today!