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The benefits of friends
Posted: February 22, 2012
Last Updated: February 22, 2012

Having good friends can increases your survival rate by up to 50 percent, according to a recent study by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We all know friendship is an important part of having a healthy social life, but it also helps you live longer. The researchers reviewed 143 different studies that examined the connection between survival and relationships. No matter what age, gender, health status, cause of death or follow up period with the individual, the results were the same: people with stronger relationships have an increased likelihood for survival. 

One theory behind the results is that relationships may act as a buffer to the negative effects of all types of stress, such as illnesses or changes in life. Friendships also may promote healthier behaviors; so your friend urging you to take time for yourself or to exercise more provides that positive reinforcement you need maintain a healthier lifestyle. Also, being part of a social network, better known as having friends, provides people meaningful roles in life, and gives an extra boost to self-esteem and a greater purpose to life. Do you need to be more connected to others? As with many goals, you'll be more successful at building strong connections if you create a workable plan.

So how do you build stronger friendships to increase your life expectancy and reap the positive benefits of friendships? Try making new connections or building on already existing relationships you have. Some easy ways to start building stronger friendships are:

  • Make a short list of friends and family members who are supportive and positive. Also include a list of people you feel the need to stay in touch with regularly such as parents, close friend or adult child who lives far away, or an aging relative who lives alone.
  • Make a commitment to yourself to call, email or get together with them on a schedule that's reasonable for you. Try to reach out to make at least one emotional connection a day, but be realistically. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or others.
  • Share what's on your mind honestly and openly. Talk about your concerns in a straight-forward way, but try to keep it constructive. Try to be direct about what you need - for example a sympathetic ear, help solving a problem, a fresh perspective, new ideas or a good laugh. Don't hesitate to ask for help.
  • When you talk, also listen. Check on someone else's day. Listening to other people's concerns can often shed a new light on your own challenges. Offer help when you can. Ask what other people think about your situation, and show them you value their opinion - listen and respond.
  • Make social plans. Create opportunities to strengthen your relationships with fun things that both parties enjoy. Looking forward to special activities boosts our spirits, gives us energy and makes us more productive.

You may find that among people you know, one or more can become trusted friends you can rely on—and support—in good times and bad. You may meet other people you never considered to be a friend, and those that are already your friends these tips can help build a stronger relationship. Remember friendship is a two-way street, with both parties offering support and encouragement to each other. Make time for your friends, and they will make time for you, and you can both benefit form a longer life together!

If you need help on how to build stronger friendships call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.