Ever come home after a bad day at work or school, throw yourself in bed and have a pity party for one? Relax, that’s completely natural.
But have you ever noticed that feeling isolated, holed up in your bedroom alone, kind of makes you feel worse than when you started?
In fact, there’s something to that. Research has shown that people who are well connected with others tend to have better health. And you thought an apple a day kept the doctor away!
So what is it about being a social butterfly that helps our health? It’s pretty simple: Friends make friends less stressed. Stress tends to cause unhealthy changes in the body and can release stress hormones into the blood. If the stress continues for a long time, the extra stress hormones can irritate cells and wear down the immune system, making us sick.
The power of people is real. There are three types of support from friends or family that really lend our health a helping hand.
- Emotional Support: This is arguably the most important type of support. Humans naturally crave the connection to other humans. We need people who will listen, reassure, comfort and care for us. Strong emotional support can lead to strong willpower to overcome even seemingly impossible life struggles.
- Informational Support: Did we make that up? Nope! This support comes from doctors, specialists or support groups. When people share information with us, we feel like we have more tools to solve our problems. There is nothing better than that “I got this” feeling!
- Practical Support: Remember when your friend came through in the clutch to give you a ride to the airport? The reliable friend should never be underestimated!
More and more, doctors are telling people to get out there and make friends! Maybe not in those words…But seriously, these connections can dramatically improve health. Many of us need to learn how to ask for the support we need.
And remember, the health benefits of social networks are also about quality, not just quantity! So after you read this, call a long-distance friend you haven spoken to in a while or reach out to that person you bumped into on the street to actually make plans! It’s good for your health.