BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — There are few things more refreshing than the feeling of being understood and valued by someone we respect.
This feeling is one of the hallmarks of a healthy friendship, and a number of our culture’s most renowned writers, philosophers, and health experts agree that solid friendships contribute much to health and wellness.
In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.Aristotle
So, according to scientists and health experts, how does friendship impact our well-being?
Check out the five ways detailed below:
#1 Friendship can protect one’s overall health
Dr. Natalie Geld, a Neuroscientist who contributed to a Bumble article on the subject of friendship pointed out that loneliness can increase inflammation, trigger stress hormones, and weaken the immune system.
On the other hand, relying on friends for connections that are truly fulfilling succeeds in combating loneliness and in helping a person to “develop healthy brain cells and strengthen positive neural pathways” in the brain.
#2 Friendships assist in navigating stressful situations
It can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook amid a stressful situation. But when a person has friends to buoy them along, they’re better equipped to deal with stress.
Dr. Geld describes how our bodies make this possible.
She explains that when we’re enjoying time with a friend, “A powerful cocktail of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin (all your feel-good hormones) elevate your mood and optimize your hormonal response to stress.”
#3 Friendships increase feelings of security, happiness
In our COVID-era world, most of us have grown used to lives on ever-shifting landscapes. We ride one unsteady wave along to the next, learning to adapt to natural disasters, viral outbreaks, and related economic problems.
But this ability to adapt often comes at a cost. Many have lost the sense of security they had pre-COVID, and some even find that their laughter doesn’t come as easily as it did before 2020.
This is where friendships can heal.
Dr. Geld explains that when we’re with close friends who make us feel understood, “oxytocin – the trust and love hormone – is released into your bloodstream. Oxytocin triggers a fountain of serotonin and dopamine. (Those feel-good hormones again!)”
In other words, when oxytocin is released, we begin to feel secure again.
Dr. Geld says that even just thinking about the friend(s) who trigger this response will release that feel-good hormone. This can give us the fortitude we need to get through life’s ups and downs.
It’s also possible to recover our pre-pandemic sense of humor via friendship.
When we’re with good friends we often find ourselves laughing, and when this happens, Dr. Geld says, “neurochemicals called endorphins are released. These chemicals clear your cell memory and open a natural flow of information chemicals. Suddenly, you feel super happy! You have more bandwidth to learn, grow, and face reality when you get regular hits of these neurochemicals.”
#4 Friendships can improve longevity
Health experts agree that connecting with friends who bring us joy can improve our physical health and life expectancy.
In an article on the topic, Psychology Today points to research involving elderly individuals and friendship. It states, “Studies have shown that older people with friends are more likely to live a healthier happier life than those who do not have many close friends. Older people without close friends are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression than their counterparts.”
The article adds, “Although family members are usually the caretakers to the elderly, they often do so out of obligation whereas lifelong friends provide endless joy with no strings attached.”
#5 Friends keep us humble
It’s been said that the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance, and when we’re on our own it’s easy to slip, fall, and get stuck in our own perception of life. This can lead to becoming a bit short-sighted and arrogant.
But one of the best things about a true friend is that they won’t hesitate to give us a reality check when needed.
According to Dr. Kristen Fuller’s article in Psychology Today, ” It could be the ridiculous outfit we are wearing or the boyfriend cheating on us. True friends bring the harsh truth in front of us… The beauty of true friends is they will tell you like it is, but from a good place in their heart.”
As illustrated in the five explanations above, there are multiple reasons to appreciate good friendships and do our best to hold onto them.