You’ve got a friend in me: The power of friendship for your health

You’ve got a friend in me: The power of friendship for your health

In today’s digital age filled with smartphones and endless scrolling on social media apps, we often pride ourselves on getting the most likes and views.

Our attention is diverted to connecting and sharing with friends online, but we often forget to connect with our friends in person.

“Posting online takes away our ability to be vulnerable with our closest friends,” states Dr. Sarah Katula, an advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.

When sharing online, we lose the ability to see our friend’s in-person reactions. We lose the authenticity of his or her response.

“When we share the same physical space as our friend, we are able to share their energy and see their genuine reaction,” says Dr. Katula.

Research has showed the power of having a friend physically next to you. Researchers conducted an experiment by having participants walk up a hill with a heavy backpack filled with exercise free weights roughly 20% of the participant’s body weight. Participants who walked up the hill alone rated the hill steeper, but those who walked up the hill with a friend next to them rated the hill less steep and easier.

Different types of friends can play different roles in your life. You may have a friend who fills your life with laughter or a friend who meets your spiritual needs, Dr. Katula says.

She offers a simple solution to connect with friends.

Start by assessing your phone usage and make an honest assessment of how much time you are spending on social media. Next, it’s as simple as picking up the phone to hear a friend’s voice and ask them to lunch.

“We must ask ourselves, “Who do we want to be?”, and when we address this question, we effectively can be a better friend to those around us,” says Dr. Katula.

It’s the simple act of creating an invitation to connect with our friends that ultimately is needed for our health.

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About the Author

Liz Fitzgerald
Liz Fitzgerald

Liz Fitzgerald, health enews contributor, is an integrated marketing coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from Marquette University.  Outside of work, Liz has a goal of visiting all U.S. national parks.