“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity”
– Kahlil Gibran
Imagine having an “elixir” that could lessen stress, decrease our chances for getting sick and lengthen your life. You could take this elixir with you everyday and everywhere. What if I told you it doesn’t cost any money? Would you want to “double up” on your dose?” This “elixir” is available right now and is ready to be given and received. What is the main ingredient? It’s friendship!
Eating well and exercising regularly are very important to physical, mental and emotional well being, but friendship is POWERFUL medicine.
What’s in a friendship for you? Affirming and experiencing vital and meaningful friendships in your life can help prevent heart disease, certain types of cancer, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and depression among many other conditions. Quality of friendships has been associated with improved physical health in the elderly, high quality of life, reproductive health (the ability to conceive), lower incidence of smoking and alcoholism. There is evidence that suggests the broader the network of friends, the greater the lower the risk of dementia. A recent study showed that social seniors reduced their rate of cognitive decline by roughly 70% compared with their least social cohorts. Increased sociability also decreased risk of physical disability.
Friendship helps us live longer. People with the strongest social ties are more likely to live longer and healthier. Friendships are such powerful medicine that the absence of a close friend is deemed by researchers as a health risk comparable in magnitude to smoking.
As the saying goes, “to have a friend, first, be a friend.” We can go about the mindful creation and inspired maintenance of health affirming friendships by exercising these healthy friendship qualities:
Trust: This is being able to count on one another, knowing that “our” best interests will be handled with care.
Honesty: Knowing that communication and actions are open and real.
Loyalty: The foundation for a solid relationship, it is being there when needed and anticipating the need to, the willingness to unselfishly encourage growth and happiness in one another.
Fun and playfulness: The availability and openness for spontaneity and joyous activities.
Time: Friendships must be prioritized as an important part of a thriving life.
For many of us taking the time and giving energy to friendships can seem like an “extra” that we may not give priority to in our busy lives; with our partners, our families, job, home and other things that fill our days and our lives. Friendships can take a “back seat” or get lost to “drive by” status at best. In much the same way that we have to consider giving priority status to our self care with exercise and a healthy diet, we can build and maintain friendships with committed zeal when we see them as a life sustaining necessity.
Many of my clients have felt that they would need to choose between giving time to friends, versus, taking time to exercise. Really? You can have both! Stop making excuses already! Consider the multifold benefits of exercising with a friend; a brisk walk coupled with inspired conversation with a friend, investigating a new exercise class together or scheduling a “spa day” sampling body work and other healthy indulgences. Co-create a healthy meal together. Share the shopping and preparation. You will enjoy the fruits of your labor so much more when it comes to sitting down and enjoying the meal. Plan a dinner party where each guest is asked to prepare one healthy course to support an overall healthy, seasonal dinner theme. These types of “celebrations” can be helpful in strengthening our friendship muscles.
Imagine how we can all be a part of healing ourselves and the world around us by affirming and expressing the principles of friendship! You are fully blessed with the power to choose to be friendly; to choose to extend your heart; to choose to be open and loving to people that you know and people that you have yet to know. The closest distance between two hearts and souls is a smile. Our collective healing may begin with each of us taking a trust walk and together building bridges of friendship everywhere we go.