“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize how vitally important friends are in my life,” comments Sandra Giedeman. “When I think about my friends, I think how I love their warmth, sense of humor, intelligence, or generosity. I’m lucky to have friends with all of those qualities.”
Friends also help you get through tough times by listening to you and making you laugh when you need it most.
“Conversations with friends help you understand that you’re not as crazy as you thought you might be – that others have gone through what you are [going through],” says Jean Ardell. “Friends have common understandings– a great comfort when we wonder at this world and the people in it. Sharing laughter with an old friend is the best medicine I know.”
The Study of Friendships
Sure, friendships make people feel good, and spending time with friends is fun. But, Jean is right about them being great “medicine” too. Scientific studies are proving that the benefits of having close friends are more powerful than ever imagined. Research shows that friendships can help you live longer, ward off diseases, and keep your mind sharp.
The statistics are impressive. For example, one study showed that women with large social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia. Cancer patients and heart attack patients alike benefit from peer support. Having many friends even makes you less likely to get a common cold.
Studies show that having a large social network is most beneficial. That means the more friends, the merrier! The old saying, “make new friends and keep the old,” rings true. Here are a few tips for adding to your social circle:
- Since physical activity is just as important as friendships, combine the two for the best of both worlds. If approved by your doctor, join a walking group or schedule a time to walk regularly with your friends. Or, sign up for a group exercise class – maybe one of your friends will want to join you, and together you can make new friends.
- Volunteer – volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded friends, and you’ll be helping others along the way. Read our blog post for countless ideas on how to find a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you.
- Join a club or group associated with something of interest to you – whether it’s playing bridge, quilting, woodworking, golf or anything in between. Read our blog post for more information on the types of clubs available. Signing up for a class is also a great way to explore a hobby, learn something new, and meet new people.
Cultivate new and old friendships by making time to get together with friends regularly. Cooking together, playing sports, enjoying joint hobbies, walking or bike riding, and having evenings in are all great ways to spend time together. In between activities, be sure to talk on the phone or schedule a video chat.
Friendships are good for the soul and are great medicine – a truly winning combination.
Friends Make You Smart – AARP.org
What Are Friends For? A Longer Life – NYTimes.com
Good Friends Are Good for You – WebMD.com