The Importance of Friends (or Why You Should Invite Your Friends Over Tonight for a Glass of Wine)

Young Friends

Young Friends. Photo courtesy of Gwennypics

On Momscape, we’ve done features on the health benefits of chocolate and the health benefits of sex. And so today we turn our attention to the health benefits of another one of life’s pleasures: good friendships.

Just in case you need a few concrete reasons to call a friend and invite her over for a glass of wine this evening, here are a few things that good friends do for us.

Emotional Well-being

“A faithful friend is the medicine of life.” ~ Apocrypha

Feeling loved and appreciated has huge effects on your emotional health. A friend can provide that feeling of self-worth, connection, and affirmation. And all of these positive feelings may even reduce your need or desire to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

Physical Well-Being
Research shows that cardiovascular health is better in those who regularly socialize with friends. Like good diet and exercise, friends improve arterial elasticity and blood pressure. And a recent Harvard study found that strong social connections may actually promote the health of the brain as we get older.

Sharing Feelings
Even if you don’t feel comfortable expressing your emotions, your limbic brain system is doing so. The limbic system is the “captain” of your emotional “ship.” When you are around friends, the limbic system kicks in and attunes itself to your friends’ limbic systems. You influence each other’s moods and feelings without even knowing it. A positive, cheerful, and loving friend can lift your spirits when you don’t even realize it.

Stronger Motivation
A recent study in New England showed that people who exercised together lost more weight than those who exercised alone. Having a friend or group of friends can be a real motivator. Are you going to sign up for that belly dancing class by yourself? Are you going to sign up for a gym membership and go workout alone? Maybe you will, but the fact is that more people engage in healthy activities like exercise more when they are in social groups.

Better Accountability
Friends can help us steer clear of unhealthy behavior patterns. A good friend cares about you, so they might help you to stay on that fitness schedule, discourage you from eating that doughnut, and distract you from lighting up when we’ve been trying to quit.

Any Socializing Helps
What if you don’t have any close friends? What can you do if you have just moved to a new area and don’t know anyone yet? Or maybe you just aren’t inclined to forge friendships. Interestingly, it’s been said that just being around people can help improve your mood and, consequently, your health. So, just going to a coffee shop or restaurant can help.

Share this article with your friends – or people whom you’d like to get to know better. Then plan a girls’ night out.

More information
Well, What are Friends For? A Longer Life
A New York Times article with links to numerous studies on the health benefits of friendship.
The Health Benefits of Good Friends
– from Girlfriendology

Here are a few more popular Momscape articles you might enjoy:
How to Be a Better Friend
Conversation Starters for Shy People
All Momscape articles on Friends and Friendships