Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You gotta have friends

I love my friends. They are my companions, my rocks, the people who tell me when I am on the right track and are not afraid to tell me I am headed for disaster. My mother taught me from a very young age that having friends is just as important as having a wonderful family. Mom was certainly correct.

I recently read an article online citing a bunch of studies about the benefits of friends. And I apologize to the source, because although I forwarded the article to my email, I did not forward the info about where I got the info. Just know that I only surf well-done sites.

So here are some findings from a number of studies:

* Socially engaged adults age more successfully. According to surveys of women older than 60, those who are socially engaged and visit with friends and family throughout the week are happier as they age.
* Friends can help you achieve your weight and fitness goals. Encouragement and just sharing goes a long way to boosting your willpower.
* Happiness is catching. If you have a friend you consider to be happy, you are more likely to be happy and you are able to spread that happiness to the people around you. People tend to cluster into happy or unhappy groups, and happiness appears to spread not just to those immediately inside the social group, but to their contacts as well. Having happy friends who live less than a mile away was an especially powerful predictor of happiness.
* Building a circle of friends makes you happy. People who see themselves as a leader in their social circle are happier than those who see themselves as outsiders — another reason why actively building relationships instead of waiting for the phone to ring is important.
* Friends lessen grief. A series of interviews with parents who lost a baby during pregnancy or immediately after birth showed that those who felt they were receiving social support from friends or family were better able to cope with their grief. The most welcome forms of support were simply being physically present, listening, and offering sympathy, encouragement, and practical help, such as making meals or funeral arrangements. In contrast, feeling socially alone tends to worsen grief.
* Being social boosts your immune system. Being socially engaged leads to more positive emotions, which in turn may actually boost your body’s immune system and reduce the physical signs of stress.

The article went on to explain the importance of being a good friend yourself, providing the benefits of friendship to others. That alone will add to your happiness.

And one more thought from me: The importance of being a friend to yourself, something I am only beginning to understand. For years, I put the wants and needs of others in front of mine, because I thought that is what a good wife and mother needs to do. SO NOT TRUE. I now know that you have to love yourself first, take care of yourself and your needs, because if you don't, you will feel used and put upon.

I am not suggesting you become an ego-centric, who puts themselves first ALWAYS. I am talking about honoring yourself, which in turn, makes you happier, stronger in mind and body, and better able to spread love to your family and friends.

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