Making Friends Important for Health and Quality of Life

. June 1, 2016.
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Activities Encourage Friendship

By Stephen Roberts PhD

Dr. Joan Lawrence, a psychologist at Assessment and Family Therapy in Sylvania has some pretty strong feelings about the value of friendship, claiming that “friends are our family of the heart”, and many times, are as important as your biological or marital family. Some friendships may be occasional interactions but others are like the brothers, sisters, Moms, and Dads that your heart chose.

Marina Lung, a Toledo psychologist, explains that the bond between humans is essential for mental health. Bonding begins at birth and if the bond is not a good one, the infant’s well-being will be negatively effected.

Ms. Lung believes that the value of friendship is shown by the fact that women generally live longer than men because they are better at socializing and forming friendship bonds.

Friendship leads to longer lives

Dr. Lawrence believes that being around friends can help you live a healthier lifestyle of diet and exercise, reduce blood pressure, enjoy your job more, and more effectively manage the routine stresses of day to day living, as well as the more troubling events like death in the family, divorce, etc.

According to Dr. Lawrence, having friends can help us age better and live longer. A  strong body of evidence shows that regularly interacting with friends in our ‘twilight years’ can keep our minds sharper, help us adjust better to life transitions and physical changes associated with growing older.

In fact, according to The Harvard Women’s Health Watch, the lack of strong relationships and friendships hurts us as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and has a more negative effect than obesity and lack of exercise.

Making new friends

AARP has some good ideas about how to make new friends. One of their points is that it might take a bit of courage to get out of your comfort zone and approach someone you have just met. Other strategies they suggest are:

  • Consider taking continuing education classes  at a local college
  • Senior centers have modernized – stop in and check out their offerings
  • Engage in activities (from cooking classes to political organizing) that you care a  great deal about – making friends who care about what you care about is easier.
  • Find local groups you might be interested in joining at meetup.com
  • Join a faith community
  • Start a Facebook page
  • Volunteer – many groups and  institutions need your help.  These websites list groups that need you! createthegood.org and voa.org

The Mayo clinic has suggestion about how to be a good friend:

Accept yourself – we are who we are – we all have weaknesses. Don’t criticize yourself or be insecure.

Accept others – nobody’s perfect – look at the good parts of people – forgive.

Be positive – do good things for, and say good things to friends.

Do not compete – focusing on being #1 does not help friendships.

Seriously listen – do not just dominate conversations. Avoid giving advice unless asked.

Respect boundaries by not sharing or requesting information that is overly personal.

Devote time to your friendship – family or work should not always come first.

Show regard for your friend’s time and life – do not over contact and find the best way to communicate.

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