gmhTODAY 14 gmhToday May June 2017 - Page 89

Health Wise with Crystal Han Time spent with our friends may actually prolong our lives! W e all need someone to lean on, as the song goes, though it may surprise you how important having someone to lean on is for your health. The time we spend with our friends is not only fun, it actually helps prolong our lives! The most recognizable way that friends positively impact our lives is that they are there for us. Good friends help us cope with the hard- ships we encounter throughout our lives, beginning when we are children. Studies show that kids who have closer friendships with others are more able to cope with bullying than those with weaker friendships. As we become adults, strong social ties help us handle rejection and traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, serious illness, the loss of a job, or divorce. Our friends may not be able to fix the problems that we’re going through, but their support provides us with some much- needed consolation. As a result, we are more likely to feel a greater sense of belonging, as well as a greater sense of self. The better we feel about ourselves and our place within society, the more stable we are overall. Physically, the impact friendship has on our lifespans is twice as strong as exercising and equal to quitting smoking. Countless studies show that positive social relationships are linked to decreased mortality in general. This is primarily due to the way friendships influence how our bodies process stress. Prolonged levels of stress can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. When friends offer help, advice, and affection, it triggers the release of stress-reducing hormones that are beneficial to both the giver and the receiver. People who spend more time with friends have a reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure, cardio- vascular problems, inflammation, and are even less likely to get sick. Our lifestyles are also influenced by the friends we keep closest to us. If you have a friend who is into exercising and eating healthy, you are five times more likely to mirror that behavior. Friends also look out for us and encourage us to take better care of ourselves, whether that means encouraging us to quit smoking or to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. We are highly social animals. We thrive on communication with others. So it goes without saying that talking, sharing experiences, and listening to the experiences of others stimulates our brains and helps keep our minds sharp. People, especially older adults, who feel a lack of social bonding are more likely to experience cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. This has less to do with actually being alone, and more to do with feelings of loneliness. Those who prefer solitude show no adverse effects, while those who long for social attachments but are unable to form any are prone to a loss of cognitive ability. Feeling lonely can also cause higher levels of tension, anxiousness, and sleep difficulties, all of which tend to cloud a person’s thinking. Interestingly, research shows that family ties, while important, seem to have little to no effect on our longev- ity. There is no definitive answer as to why, but it might be because we are able to choose the type of personality and values we seek in a friend—we don’t choose our families. When it comes to choosing friends, quality is always bet- ter than quantity. We want to find the people who appreciate our differences and aren’t afraid to give us their honest opinion when necessary. In some ways, GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2017 our friends get to know our truest selves, and they will love us not only when we’re at our best, but also when we’re at our worst. Those are the types of people who are more likely to stick around when things get tough. Knowing you have friends like that in your life does wonders for your mind and your body. In today’s hectic society, it may seem impossible to maintain friendships. Our friends might be moving because of school, jobs, or to be closer to family, which makes it difficult to spend time with them. But distance doesn’t necessar 䁕ՅєѼݕѡ)ѥԁ͡ɔݥѠ)ɥ̸Qɽ՝ѡ͔̰)M䁽ѡȁ̰)ԁѥɽ䁍ѕѼ)ɥٕ́ԁٔͥєͥ)ѡݽɱ5хɥ͡)х́ݽɬЁݡЁ́Ѽѡ)ԁͥȁѼٕ䁥х)ȁѡeɔݕݽѠѡи)1ɸ5ɔ+qɥ͡ɥeȁ1)%ɽٔeȁ!Ѡt5弁 +p܁]́ɥ́͡ɔɕЁ)eȁ!ѠtMѕA̰1ٔ)M+qɥ́ɔȁeԳt)QY]5)ѽ乍) IeMQ0!8́)ɕɥѕȁ)ѥиMɅՅѕ)ɽM)Mхє)UٕͥݥѠ) ѥ)%Ʌѥ́)ɥٕа)ɕѱݽɭ)ݼ̸(