Good Medicine: How Friendships Can Improve Your HealthSeptember 4, 2019
Think about sitting alone while eating lunch. Now imagine that same lunch shared with a friend. There’s just something about the company and the conversation that makes the whole experience more pleasant.
After all, human beings are “social animals” — meaning we naturally seek the companionship of others as part of our well-being. Without that companionship, loneliness begins to affect the way we feel — emotionally and physically. In fact, according to a 2019 report from the National Institute on Aging, research has linked isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease.
So, what’s the antidote for loneliness? Getting connected with others and building friendships. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s a distinct connection between health and friendships.
Of course, we all know that friends help us celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends also provide companionship and help to ward off loneliness. However, the value of friendships goes deeper than that and includes some unexpected benefits you might not have considered.
6 Ways Friends Can Improve Your Overall Health and Quality of Life:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress.
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth.
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, or the death of a loved one.
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking or excessive drinking.
- Motivate you to improve your overall wellness, including better nutrition and more exercise.
- Clearly, it’s good to have friends. For some seniors, friends are abundant—especially if you’ve lived in the same area for many years. For others, friendships wane over time—as neighbors move away, friends pass away, or people simply just lose contact. In that case, there are specific things you can do to boost your social network.
- Attend community events. Seek out groups, clubs, or events that focus on topics or causes that interest you. This includes everything from musical performances, to local holiday events, to “town hall meetings.”
- Volunteer. By offering your time or talents at a local hospital, church, museum or other organization, you put yourself in the position to form strong connections with people who share your interests.
- Extend and accept invitations. Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you’re invited to a social gathering, accept the invitation. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
- Pursue a new interest. Many colleges and community groups offer lifelong learning courses for seniors. Sign up for a class and you’ll meet people who have similar interests.
- Take a fitness class. It’s fun to exercise with fellow seniors who share your interest in staying healthy. Class options include everything from yoga and Tai Chi, to aqua aerobics and line dancing.
The bottom line: The more you circulate with people, the more friends you’ll have. If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, it’s time to seek out opportunities to engage with others.
That’s the beauty of a senior living community like Sierra Winds. Friendships come easily as residents get to know neighbors and share conversations over meals. Plus, there’s the fun of participating in community activities available every day — from exercise and wellness classes to volunteer opportunities and social gatherings.