Good Friends Can Boost Your Health

Show me your friends, and I can guess the company you keep. Our kind of friends instinctively shows the group we belong.  For instance, if your friends are down-to-earth, humble, simple, compassionate, intelligent, and hardworking, you’re likely to exhibit those traits otherwise you will be struggling to get along.  On the other hand, if your friends are unrealistic, arrogant, difficult, selfish, and lazy, probably you are too, or influenced to be.  After all, birds of same feather flock together.

From experience, I encourage the first type of friends.  They are the ones who will give you the little help when it is needed most.  They are the ones you can call up in the middle of the night without hesitating.  They equally feel free to do the same when they need you. You know you will always be there for each other. A friend in need is a friend indeed, right? That is not the situation as many friends are never there when things get rough.  They quickly bolt through the front door, leaving you to sort out your problems.  They ignore your calls.  The most annoying thing is once you are back on top again, the calls start to come in… making you wonder.  That's why I would rather have two or three genuine friends than loads of sycophant friends.

Why Are Good Friends Great for Your Health?

This brings up the fact that true friendship is good for your health – and that has been proven scientifically.  Friends make you live longer, particularly the ones that bring happiness, reduce your stress, and spur you on to greater things. Research discovered that while men are inclined to go it alone in stressful situations, women look for support group among women. Whenever these women engage in this type of ‘friendship’, the chemical oxytocin is released; this counters stress and has a calming effect. The recommendation is to talk it out with someone about what is bugging you. Pouring out your heart and getting a positive response to your problems do help. So remember when you are going through a stormy period, it is important to talk to your friends about it. Don’t go it alone. And if you are the friend someone confides in, let him or her know you care. 

One more reason to have friends is that not having friends has a negative physical effect as bad as being overweight.  For instance, letting go your friendship with other sisters is a mistake because you provide strength to each other. We are not talking about women friends jealous of your promotion, your loving family, your beauty, and intelligence. Those women are not your friends. The real friends will have your back and not grudge your success or secretly wish they had what you have.  Bottom line: true relationship with women friends can truly be therapeutic.  Also, if you feel comfortable with male friends, enjoy it as long as you can feel each other.  There is no hard and fast rule about friendship.  The final benefit we are all looking for is a healing experience.

What Makes You a Good Friend?

If you are a good friend, you should have some or all of the following attributes:

  • ·         Can You Spot a Friend in Trouble?

This means you have to be very good at reading your friends facial expressions.  You instinctively know when she is down or up.  She may hide it because she doesn’t want to burden or take too much of your time or too self-conscious to ask for help. A nice way to start is by asking ‘Is everything ok’? Or ‘Are you alright’? Or ‘Can we talk about what’s upsetting you’? Be persistent, but also take the hint if she would rather not talk about it at that moment.  If she is still quiet the next day, give it another go.

  • ·         Are you a Good Listener?

Many of us are not good listeners, but rather yap a lot, and enjoy listening to our own voice. This time let your friend do the talking. Perhaps it is possible you may not be able to solve your friend’s problem or help get her groove back, but do let her talk about how she feels. Giving her the space to talk through the situation, as often and as long as she wants, is the greatest support you can give her. Your calmness can be valuable too since it permits a good flow of her feelings without disruptions.

  •      Do You Focus On Your Friend?
If your friend is pulling through from the shock of discovering her husband’s sizzling love affair with his secretary, talk about her feelings as regards the infidelity, rather that the husband’s actions. Alternatively if the problem is about failing a professional exam, focus on her feelings about not passing the exam, rather than the failure.

  • ·         Do You Open Your Pandora Box?
It is very easy to start unfolding your related experience to your friend’s problem at a time she wants your listening ears.  Bingo, you have taken over the show, leaving your friend no space to put in a word. There is a blurred line between trying to be compassionate and unleashing your own dose of earlier experiences.  Be careful how you respond to your friend’s distress call.  If your friend asks you to share your experience, by all means feel free to share.   However, resist from giving an excessive account of your narrative or deleting sensitive parts to make her feel better.  So, if she doesn’t ask to share your experience, avoid the urge to tell. It is her time.  Let her expend it.

  • ·         Do You Take Her Off the Problem?
It is good to talk, but afterwards get her involved in an activity that will get her mind off the problem.  Because let us face it, after having poured her heart to you, she will still go back to her life – eating, sleeping, working, and living the problem.  Advise activities to do, for example, suggest a trip to the gym (that is if she enjoys it), to the movies, give her a motivational book, but make certain it doesn’t involve alcohol, drugs, or food.

  • ·         How Practical Are You?
After the emotional outburst of her problems, it is time to be practical.  It may be your duty to get her information and external supports that will help rebuild her life.  For instance, if the problem is failing her professional exam, assist by encouraging her to make a second attempt. If it is a relationship problem, she may benefit from a marriage counsellor or a therapist.  None of your actions must be forced or too hasty. When you are ready with your suggestions, propose them gently at the appropriate time.

  • ·         Are You There Always?
Lastly, it is crucial to just be there through ‘thick’ and ‘thin’. After all that’s what friends are for.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons


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