April 25, 2013

Why friends can be better than a Xanax

It feels like we live increasingly busy and yet increasingly isolated lives. Our lives are filled with so many activities involving interactions with so many people, and yet rarely do we stop and make deep connections with any of them. How can you stop? The to-do list is too long. Who has time for the luxury of quality time with friends? For me, I sometimes feel guilty taking time away from my family, or my job to just hang out with friends.

But there is a cost to this type of isolation from friends. There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that people with close friends are much healthier than those without. People with friends tend to live longer, have better brain health, are more likely to recover from diseases like breast cancer, and are even less likely to get colds (perhaps due to lower stress levels). It is not quite clear why this is the case, but it is a consistent finding. Social support will help you live a healthier, happier life.

So if you are looking to improve your physical and emotional health, start cultivating your friendships. Call that friend you have been meaning to talk to, or invite some people over for a meal, or join a book club. This may be the biggest single thing you can do to take care of yourself.

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