Social contact is one of the most important ways of relieving stress. Yet as we get older and have more responsibilities it can be too easy to forgo contact with friends in favour of all of the other tasks that we have to complete. Here we give you five reasons why you should pick up the phone and arrange a catch up with a friend:
- Friends reduce your body’s stress response – in one study researchers found that children who had a negative experience while their best friend was present not only felt better about themselves afterwards but also had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than those who did not have a friend present . If you’re having a hard time try catching up with a friend to bring those stress hormones down.
- Friends make us healthier – when our friends are healthy we tend to be healthier too. A research study in Australia found that the healthier people’s friends were in terms of their diet and exercise levels, the healthier they were as well . The next time you’re thinking of ditching a catch-up for the gym why not go together? You’ll have the benefit of friendship, exercise and potentially spreading these health benefits to your friendship group all in one go.
- Friends make us sharper – stuck with a difficult problem? Phone a friend. Research shows that a 10 minute chat on a social topic can boost executive function, the type of mental agility that helps us to solve problems .
- Friends make us laugh – laughter is good for us. It improves mood, reduces stress and may even boost our immune system . Get together with a friend who makes you laugh and your body will thank you.
- Friends can make you live longer – researchers gathered all of the research on friendship and mortality in 2010 and found that people with strong social ties lived longer than those without. This was true even after they accounted for health differences in the participants .
Don’t neglect the friendships that make you feel good. Sometimes it’s important to put life on hold for a short while to nurture the relationships that keep you happy, healthy and sane in this busy world.
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4. Bennett, M.P., et al., The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 2003. 9(2): p. 38.
5. Holt-Lunstad, J., T.B. Smith, and J.B. Layton, Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med, 2010. 7(7): p. e1000316.