Spending comfort time with your good friends, just loafing and laughing until your sides ache can reduce your stress hormone levels, improve your immune system, lower your blood pressure, make you less likely to get colds, improve your survival rate if you have breast cancer, lower your risk of heart disease, make you less likely to be obese, depressed, or anxious, vastly support your memory function as you age, and considerably lengthen your life. Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech, has said, “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of all these studies is that friends make your life better.”
Notice I didn’t say that finishing one more load of laundry is what does it, or crossing everything off your list(s), or making sure your children look perfect, or volunteering to revamp the world, or giving up every food that’s bad for you, or calling your entire extended family once a week, or being popular at work, or replaying those old guilt-producing stories in your head until you feel thoroughly punished. Even though those seem like good and proper things to do, when it comes to your overall health and wellness, they don’t hold a candle to a good giggling session over iced tea in the backyard. Friends are important.
And remember, whatever helps a parent be well, helps their children be well. Children thrive when parents are attuned to them and present. That’s hard if your life’s no fun.
But I don’t have time! Actually, not nurturing friendships gives you less time, not more. The stronger your friendship networks, the longer you live. When it comes to your longevity, good friendships are more important than your spousal relationship or even your kids, according to the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging out of Flinders University. It’s having good friendships that can make you live 22 % longer. To my knowledge, finishing those thank you notes, or getting all the yard work done, doesn’t have those kinds of stats.
But I blew it! I let them all go. It’s never too late. You can repair. And your friends may be saying the same thing. If you are thinking of someone you really click with, someone you miss bouncing Ideas off, take this opportunity now to risk reaching out. When you make yourself vulnerable to emotional connection, it invites others to do the same. This could be the pathway towards closeness. Keep in mind that it is the overall quality of relationships that matters, not the quantity. So, if there’s is one person you can bust a gut with, call them.
But everyone is so far away. Sacramento has a very active Meet-up community. There’s a Meet-up group for moms. A meet-up group for hiking. A meet-up for knitters. Even one for Laughing Yoga. You can start a meet-up group about anything. Moreover there are yoga, mindfulness, art, music, rock climbing, ballet classes, classes available at the Learning Exchange, and an abundance of adult sports leagues. Fleet Feet is swollen with running programs. You might also consider the site socialjane.com to look for walking buddies in your neighborhood. Again, risking reaching out creates an opportunity for others to find you. So allow yourself to meet a new friend, then schedule a silly weekend with an old one.
In this moment right now, write, “goof off with friends” on your priority list, not as a reward for when you finish the endless stream of chores, but at the top, as if your very life depended on it, because in many ways, it does.
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