February is known to be the month of love and romance. Every Feb. 14 we celebrate Valentine’s Day, when we traditionally indulge our beloved with gifts of love. Not everybody has a spouse, significant other or lover; however, February is also known as the International Month of Friendship.
There are many reasons to value friendships. Here are a few things friends can do for us:
- Share our concerns, put things in perspective, and reduce anxiety.
- Celebrate the good times, offer support during tough times.
- Help us manage the inevitable traumas of life such as loss of a job, divorce, death of a family member or other loved one.
- Help us find the humor in difficult situations.
- Promote better health habits by partnering with us to exercise and eat healthier.
According to an article by Mayo Clinic Staff entitled, “Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health,” friends play a significant role in promoting our overall health. Adults with strong social support have shown a decreased risk of many common health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies even indicate that older adults with a vital social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.
We need to focus on friendship, making a concerted effort to value the people that we care about but tend to take for granted. At times, friendships can wane as we attend to other priorities such as parenting, caring for aging parents, serious illness, or job responsibilities. In this day of ubiquitous social media, many of us are communicating via cell phones and email instead of interacting with people in person. Our thumbs are getting all the exercise as we text and tweet.
It’s never too late to invest in making friendships a priority. My husband is always reminding me to practice what I preach. We have many cherished friends in Connecticut, but since we moved to California in November, we have had to make new friends in this new community. I have made it my mission to reach out and connect with one new person every day, whether it is to introduce myself to a neighbor, or start a conversation with a worker at the local grocery store. I can never tell if that person might ultimately become a lifelong friend.
So starting right now, February 2017, let’s all make a determined effort to seek out friends – either new or renewed – and reap the health benefits at the same time. Be Well!