Friends make you feel good, don’t they? Well, most of the time, anyway! When it comes to sharing our deepest thoughts and baring our soles, many of us rely on friends rather than family. And that's understandable because when we're faced with a particularly embarrassing dilemma, a friend is often more 'friendly' and understanding of our situation. Family members are more likely to bring up past incidents of failure on our part just to make a point, while a friend will just listen. But friends do a lot more than listen. In fact, medical experts are now well aware of the fact that friendships do a lot of good for our bodies and minds.
How Do Friendships Benefit Us Psychologically?
The effect of friendship on the mind has been studied through the ages by a variety of medical experts and from various perspectives. In one study, "researchers found that both happiness and unhappiness spread from one friend to another. Having a happy friend who lived less than a mile away increased the chances of finding personal happiness by 25 percent."
That's a pretty exact number, isn't it? So then, if we can arrive at an actual quantified figure for how friendships can help us, what other areas of our psychological make-up can they impact in a positive way? Let's see:
Friendships Help Fight Anxiety and Depression
A study in 2009 found that people with few or no social ties were more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. This validated an earlier and larger study that revealed that people with no real friendships in their community "were nearly 20 percent more likely to die within 10 years, regardless of their health or occupation."
Friendships Help Fight Stress
The Journal of the National Medical Association once reported that friendships could help alleviate stress. This psychological effect obviously has a knock-on physical effect as well, as we'll see in a bit, but the gist of this particular report was that people who have close relationships in their community tend to have lower levels of inflammatory chemicals in their bloodstream, and this phenomenon becomes more pronounced in older age groups.
Bad Friendships Make Things Worse
An interesting finding about friendship is that only good friendships are beneficial to our mental and physical well-being. That might sound obvious but there is scientific evidence to prove this. A journal paper from 2008 said this:
"...friends who talk excessively about problems -- researchers called it "co-ruminating," evoking cows endlessly chewing their cud -- can actually ramp up each other's stress levels. And while friendships generally help encourage us to make healthy lifestyle choices, some friendships have the opposite effect. A famous study that followed over 12,000 people for 32 years found that a person's risk of becoming overweight increased 57 percent if a close friend became overweight."
That's how powerful a friendship can be, and it can go either way depending on the quality of the friendship and the prevalent circumstances. "Choose your friends wisely" seems like great advice at this point, right?
What about the Physical Effects of Frienship?
Our mental state of mind is closely connected to our physical health. Experts have known this for a long time, but the ancient concepts surrounding the close connection between the mind and body were irreparably damaged by well-known thinkers and scientists of their time. What was accepted as a done deal by the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, in the 4th Century BCE was disrupted in the 16th and 17th Centuries by stalwarts like Rene Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton. The inextricable link between mind and body were broken forever, and it is only in recent times that modern medical experts are once again 'rediscovering' the close link between the mind and the body.
As such, the physical effects of friendship are as important as the psychological ones because they have a close correlation and even a causative effect on each other. You've heard people say "fake it till you make it", haven't you? That's built on the premise that the body can directly affect the mind. "Smile and you'll eventually feel happy" is the gist of that belief. In the other direction, the mind is known to be influential on the body's mechanisms.
Experts now believe that "a good friendship is a wonderful antidepressant," and that this effect can actually increase longevity. A 2010 analysis of several studies (148 of them) showed that there was a strong correlation between social relationships such as friendships and life span. In fact, the effect was far greater than other positive and negative behaviors like exercise and smoking. Another meta-analysis of 70 studies revealed in 2015 that "the absence of social connections carried the same health risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness led to worse outcomes than obesity. And the findings held true for people of all ages."
Obesity, heart disease, life span... these are all physical attributes that frienships can impact, either in a positive or a negative way. The right friendships with the right people pulls us in a positive direction toward better health, while bad friendships or consorting with negativity has the opposite effect.
Now that you know what an important role frienships play in our lives and our overall health, it's equally important to know how to maintain strong friendships. One great way to stay connected with a friend even if he or she is a thousand miles away is the Friendship Lamp.
What is a Friendship Lamp?
A friendship lamp is one of two or more lamps connected to each other via the Internet from their respective locations. During the set-up, each lamp can be assigned a particular color. When that lamp is touched on the sensor plate at the top, all the other lamps in that network will light up in that color!
It's a great way to communicate, and it respect's the other person's privacy - no more worrying about your calls going to voicemail or your texts going unanswered!
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