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Let’s celebrate social support on International Day of Friendship

Let’s celebrate social support on International Day of Friendship

When’s the last time you gave thanks for the friends in your life? They not only provide you with everyday joys, but spending time with them also boosts your health. In honor of International Day of Friendship on July 30, get the facts about the benefits of friendship.

Having meaningful relationships with friends and family members goes beyond just giving your mental health a boost. Those social connections can also protect your overall well-being.

Keep reading as our LCMC Health team sheds some light on how your health benefits when you invest time in relationships.

The health hazards of loneliness

When you think about things that are hazardous to your health, smoking, living a sedentary lifestyle and eating unhealthy foods may come to mind. Research in the past decade, though, has shown that, in some cases, loneliness can be just as dangerous for your health as smoking.

That’s a significant finding! Specifically, a 2017 study found that a lack of close relationships and social support can be as dangerous for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking alcohol excessively.

Being socially isolated is tied to a higher risk of serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease and dementia, particularly for older adults. On the other hand, researchers suggest that those who have strong social ties have a lower mortality risk and better overall health.

Why friendships are so important

Even one close friendship can help you stay socially active, which can help you stay healthier and live longer. That’s because social relationships are associated with reduced stress and anxiety, improved cognitive functioning, reduced risk of dementia, lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system.

Public health researchers also found that spending time with family and friends is often associated with being more physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

Creative ways to stay active and social

There are many benefits to maintaining friendships and being socially active. Let’s be real, though: Finding friends and keeping them can be difficult as we get older.

You don’t have to be a social butterfly to build relationships and invest time in them. Try these ideas:

  • Seek others who like what you like. Love reading? Find a book club at your local library. Are you a huge sports fan? Make yourself a frequent attendee at games in your community. Friends can be found based on common interests.
  • Give back to your community. Volunteering with a community organization is a meaningful way of interacting with others. Look for organizations with missions that you support, then seek opportunities to volunteer with them, working side by side with others.
  • Get active. Staying physically active is good for your overall health, but you can also add a little social interaction into the mix. You can meet people while running on local trails or participating in a group workout at the gym.
  • Explore your neighborhood. If you typically spend much of your day indoors, it may be time to venture out for a walk! Get to know those who live around you. Add an after-dinner stroll into your routine and encourage yourself to interact with those you encounter on your walk.

These are good ways to expand your social networks, but you may wonder how to carve out time for relationships. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Interacting with your friends and loved ones can be as simple as a quick video chat or a lunch date. Try inviting friends to your everyday activities—you may find that a friend enjoys exercising or volunteering with you.

Whatever you do, don’t leave it to chance! Plan out regular interactions with your friends. Your health will thank you.

If you’d like to speak with an expert about your mental health, we’re here for you. Find a behavioral health specialist near you.