Saturday, September 29, 2012

With a Little Help from my Friends

Our Six-Pack Wednesday Group (although none of us actually drinks a six-pack)
I am really a loner, almost a hermit. I can be happily alone for huge stretches of time - just me and my books, my computer, and my fabric.  Fortunately, I fell in love with a guy that is really outgoing. Then I found a best friend who also likes her books, her computer, and her fabric, and is very outgoing and social. Without the two of them, and all of the friends I have met through them, my life would be very different.
We have this great little group that gets together every week for cocktails or cokes and friendship. The group changes - different people and different places - but it really stays pretty much the same. We spend time complaining about this or that, sometimes crying when problems crop up, but mostly we laugh and have a good time. Occasionally we get so noisy that we chase other customers out of a place, but we tip well so waiters never seem to mind.
Studies are finding that having a close group of good friends may be more important  to living a long, healthy life than whether or not you smoke, exercise or are overweight. On the opposite end of the scale, loneliness and isolation seem to be a serious risk to your health. Past studies told us that being married affects longevity, but it turns out that married men live longer, but the same may not hold true for married women. Often, close friends are more important to your health than your spouse or family.

So, if close friendships equal longer life expectancy, why?

Carole King and James Taylor had it right with You've Got a Friend.  When you are down and troubled... good friends are there to help you deal with depression or loss. The best friends offer support for your attempts to improve your health and happiness.
Good friends never let us forget that we have someone who cares, someone who is there to help whether our need is emotional support, financial help, companionship, or just advice. It may be someone to care for us after an accident or surgery, someone to listen as we pour out our heart.
Although the quality of our relationships is more important than quantity, a person with a large circle of friends from a variety of contexts is less likely to develop a serious illness.

Some Studies...

  • Researchers at Harvard have shown that strong social ties promote brain health.
  • A Swedish study found that expanding your social circle lowers your risk of heart disease.
  • A 2006 study showed that women with breast cancer had a 25% less chance of dying if they have a tight group of close friends.
Close friends lead to a stronger immune system, while people with poor social connections have a 50% chance of dying sooner.

Friendship can take some effort

The thing is, friendship takes some work. It is too easy to get caught up in our own little world and suddenly realize that we have drifted away from our friends. A new romantic relationship can take over your life until you don't have time for your friends any more. A stressful job can do the same thing. But it's important that we refuse to allow this to happen.
  • Be sure you make time to spend with your friends.
  • Keep in touch with old friends. It's much harder to develop new friendships than it is to maintain the old ones.
  • Facebook is not good enough!
*** However, I have to say that thanks to Facebook, I am now back in touch with friends from high school that I hadn't seen or heard from in 40 years. They may not be life-saving-close friends, but it's fun to hear from them again.

That's what friends are for

As time goes by, I expect that my friends and I will be challenged in many ways. Some of us are more secure in our realtionships than others. Some are dealing with serious health issues. Who knows what surprises the economy might bring? Some of us will move away, but I imagine others will join our group.
But no matter what happens, I know in my heart that we will still be a group of friends who loves each other and care enough to say whatever needs to be said. We will be there to offer whatever kind of help is needed... because that's what friends are for.

And thank you, friend, for reading my blog!
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