I would like to share this great article by Extension Educator Emily Schoenfelder that talks about how fewer things have a greater impact on our mental and physical health than our friends.
Emily says that research shows that people with strong social connections have greater longevity, have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and faster recovery from illness. They also have increased life-satisfaction and a sense of belonging.
In fact, a 2018 journal article called The Anatomy of Friendship states, “Friendship is the single most important factor influencing our health, well-being, and happiness.”
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So how can we increase our social connections and get the most out of our friendships? Or, perhaps more importantly, how can we be good friends to others?
• Take (a little) Time – It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just a few minutes can make a big difference. Make a 5-minute phone call to let a friend know you’re thinking of them. Keep a pile of blank greeting cards handy and take a few seconds to jot down a note and send it to a friend. Text a fun picture. Stop by a work-friend’s station at the end of your shift to catch up as you both head home for the day.
• Find Balance – Do you ever find yourself creating a “balanced” life by dividing it into two categories: work and family? I do this a lot – and it makes it tricky to prioritize time for friendships. But there is more to a balanced life than just these (albeit important) areas, like self-care, spirituality, or romance. Why not try combining quality friend time with other good-for-you activities? Grab a friend for a workout or a walk, take a class together, or start a gathering in your faith community. This way, you can build a friendship while maintaining a more well-rounded life.
• Be Friendly – Small, simple gestures can build relationships with acquaintances. Chat with your neighbors when you see them outside. Greet folks you encounter regularly at the park or the coffeehouse. Smile at people during your commute or when you’re out for a walk. Even these peripheral relationships can add a lot to your sense of belonging on your community – and you might just make someone else’s day while you’re at it!
One of the best things about friendship is that it’s mutually beneficial. When you put in the effort to strengthen your friendships, you’re enriching others’ lives, too. For more information on building friendships, visit the Connection Corner Blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/connection-corner to see the original article with additional online resources available.
Emily Schoenfelder, Connection Corner Blog can be found at extension.illinois.edu/blogs/connection-corner
For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at https://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms , call us at 217-345-7034 or contact Cheri Burcham at [email protected] Also visit the Family Files Blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files
Cheri Burcham is the Family Life Educator at the U of I Extension.