Prioritize spending time with good friends to improve your health and increase your happiness explains Carole Spiers

‘You’ve got trouble, I’ve got ‘em too…. We stick together and we see it through’.

Just some of the wise words from songwriter Randy Newman.

On the 8th June, we celebrated Best Friends Day. We are all aware that we enjoy spending time with our best friends. That’s why we choose to do it. But you probably didn’t know that those friendships are scientifically backed up to be good for us, according to Michigan State University. Friends are the family we choose. The family that we can talk to about anything without judgement and without fear of disappointing them. That’s why they’re the ones we turn to when the night is darkest.

They’re Extending Your Life

We often overlook the connection between mental health and physical health. You want to improve your physical health – you go to the gym, right? Wrong. Did you know that feeling stressed out can negatively impact the heart and lead to higher blood pressure levels, putting you at a serious health risk? It has been said that having an active social life is twice as effective as exercise in prolonging life. That doesn’t mean you should neglect keeping fit, just that you should be engaging in fulfilling relationships and prioritising spending quality time with the people that mean the most to you.

They’re Causing you More Happiness Than Cash

A 2016 report from the London School of Economics found that there was a closer association between happiness levels and relationships compared to happiness and income. The research was carried out over 50 years, since when wages have increased dramatically. However, happiness levels had not, leading to the conclusion that relationships, present then and now, are where happiness begins.

Their Company Can Prevent Dementia

A study conducted in the Netherlands found a link between loneliness and an increased risk of dementia and a higher chance of early death. However, this does not mean that those of you with a small social circle should worry. Loneliness is the sense of feeling alone, not being alone. You may have a large social group but still feel as if you are on your own all the time. The quality of your relationships is what is important, not the number.

They Halve your Problems

Many of us don’t like to share everything with our families. Usually not for privacy reasons, but because we don’t like to burden people with our problems. However, this is not something that concerns us when we share with friends. After all, that’s what friends are for. Keeping problems to yourself can be detrimental to your mental health as you struggle to keep your problems locked away inside. Talking to your friends can bring more stress relief than you might expect as you feel that weight on your shoulders being cut in half.

They Create Good Habits

This one can work both ways which is why it is important to surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on your life. We often recruit our friends into activities or events that we want to do, but perhaps lack the courage or the support. Losing that extra weight seems easier when you’re sharing the struggle with a friend. Deciding to run a marathon doesn’t seem as daunting when you’re training together. Implementing healthy habits is easy but sticking with them can be challenging. Having good influences and positive energy surrounding you results in greater feelings of motivation and determination.

They Take Away the Pain

2016 study concluded that friends are ‘better than morphine’. They found that individuals with less fulfilling relationships had a lower tolerance to pain compared with people part of larger social circles. The happiness that we gain from talking to and spending time with friends causes the brain to release the same endorphins we feel when we exercise.

So, next time you’re feeling low, or stressed, or lonely, grab your closest friends and experience that natural ‘friendship high’ we didn’t even know was a thing.

Why not make a phone call today to a friend who may not have heard from you for a while?

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Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is the Chair of the International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK) and founder of International Stress Awareness Week. She is an acknowledged authority on corporate stress and CEO of the Carole Spiers Group (London ... (Read More)

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