3 ways good friends can help us feel healthier
We’ve all felt it — talking with or spending time with a good friend gives us an emotional boost. But did you know having a good friend can improve our physical health, too?
With the often-over-use of social media, real friendships can fade. But if we want to do all we can for our physical health, it’s in our best interests to have a bestie.
Dr. Vanessa Chang at Aurora Behavior Health Center in Kenosha, Wis., shares 3 reasons why.
#1: Friends can help us live longer
People who have strong relationships can be healthier in old age and live longer than people who don’t, a longtime Harvard study suggests.
How? Friends help us deal with stress. Turning to best friends when life throws you a curveball can make it easier to cope.
“Knowing people we can count on during difficult times can lessen the burden and even make some events seem not stressful at all,” says Dr. Chang.
A good friend can also help remind us to take care of ourselves, like getting our recommended screenings and check-ups.
“Staying in charge of your health is key to extending lifespan, and friends can give us the gentle reminders we all sometimes need,” says Dr. Chang.
#2: Friends may keep our minds sharp
Feeling a sense of belonging and having direct interactions with others may help us keep our brain in shape. A study found older people who feel lonely may have increased risk for dementia by as much as 40%.
#3: Friends can be a good influence
We often take cues from our friends. One study found that people tended to imitate how hard their friends work out.
Hanging out together with those who, for example, bike, do yoga or eat salads for lunch, can help us maintain or acquire healthier habits. (But be aware, it can also work the other way.)
Having a friend to diet with or go on walks or to the gym can give support and help keep you on a healthy track.
“And, just getting out to exercise is a great way to socialize and make new friendships with similar health-minded people,” says Dr. Chang.
About the Author
Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.