Tending and Befriending

One of the saddest part of our current society today is that fact that we are not as connected as we used to be. I often ask the individuals or couples I see when was the last time you had someone over to your house for coffee, breakfast, dinner or any occasion. It will often be months. You may say that you see your colleagues at work every day and go for coffee but often that does not translate into “I could call on them for anything in the middle of the night and they would be there”. Social support and friendship remains a huge part of mental health even in this day and age. A british study found that 72% of women who were depressed, reduced their symptoms of depression just by regularly meeting with a volunteer for a cup of coffee or a simple outing over one year. There does seem to be a difference between males and females regarding the chemicals that occur when they are experiencing stress or distress in their lives. Both get flooded with stress chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline but women also have an additional chemical flooding their bodies. That chemical is oxytocin which promotes bonding or tending and befriending. To reach out to loved ones helps women to calm themselves and to to strengthen their relationships with their friends and families. There are also other studies which give us lots of evidence for friendship as a positive influence on our health. I love this one that comes from the Nurses’ Health study from Harvard Medical School. They found that the more friends that women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged and the more likely they were to report leading a joyful life. There is so much more. Both men and women show powerful health benefits where having 4 friends or more gave them the benefit of being 1/2 as likely to die from heart disease. It has also been shown that people have greater well-being if their friends and families support their goals by frequently expressing interest and offering help and encouragement. Wow! I hope this has convinced you to start today to develop deep connections with people. It takes some time and repeated reaching out to build memories and create great friendships. Put it in your calendar and start today as part of living life fully!

Author: Lynda Chalmers