I wrote an article in early summer about the power of female friendships. Having spent time in Spain with childhood gal pals, we emerged physically exhausted, emotionally refreshed and laughing our heads off. As any woman knows, if they’ve spent time with girlfriends, it’s a long-lasting high. So long-lasting, in fact, that research shows that having satisfying personal relationships can prolong our lives to a significant degree. These strong, positive relationships don’t have to be a specific kind – they can be family, friends, lovers. As long as they are long lasting and encouraging, they can be as helpful to human health as giving up smoking. (Imagine what doing both could do for our health!)
A study from Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill combined a total of 148 other studies about health, survival rates from illness and the social relationships of the persons studied to find that people with these close relationships had a 50 percent better chance at recovery from illness than those with insufficient social ties.
It all makes sense, of course. Techniques like massage and touch therapy are used in hospitals and rehab facilities all the time, since physical closeness is also a factor in health, as well as close emotional ties. Family and friends can cheer us up, help take care of tasks when we cannot, can encourage us to get and keep our weight down, become workout buddies and provide a lot of fun, support and laughter - which, after all, can be the ‘best medicine’.
Not unexpectedly, the study also showed that negative relationships can offer the opposite results so even more reason to repair or remove toxicity in our lives and surround ourselves with the people and situations that comfort us. We don’t need a huge circle around us. A couple of great girlfriends, a spouse or boyfriend or some beloved relatives can be all a person needs to get through medical hardships and back on their feet again. While “tons of friends” can help, it’s the quality of social ties that counts, not quantity. Remember that Facebook friend you have with 1,847 friends? Not to worry – if your ten are filled with positivity and fun, you’re luckier than most.
So make it a point to surround yourself with friends, family and people in your life who provide a stimulating and nurturing environment. And don’t forget to be a good friend yourself. Your golden years, and those of your loved ones, may depend on it.
For more in-depth information on this study, click here for the Public Library of Science website: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316
Do you have positive social relationships in your life? If you are ill, have these relationships made a difference to your recovery?