Benefits of Friendship

This weekend was another one for the books. H had a three day weekend, so we scooted up to North Carolina to soak up the beauty, and to spend time with friends. H brought a girlfriend, and J and I invited a couple, who have been our friends for 20 years to join us. It’s so much fun for us to share our little bit of paradise with friends. H and her friend started chatting from the moment we picked them up at school on Thursday, and didn’t stop until we dropped her off at home on Sunday.

J came up with S early to play golf, and T and I came up on Thursday with the girls. We played cards, hiked, read, knitted, laughed, drank good wine, and had an incredible weekend. Didn’t sleep much, but I feel energized whenever I spend good quality time with friends. I think J and I learned about the benefits of quality friendships from his mother.

My mother-in-law is the picture of health. She exercises every day, eats well, has an occasional martini or glass of wine, and when she wakes up every morning she takes about 20 vitamins/supplements with a glass of orange juice. People who meet her are drawn to her personality. She looks at least 15 years younger than she is, and has the energy level of someone younger than me!

And she also makes friends everywhere she goes. Her friends are found everywhere…of course, her peers, her family, the co-workers from her job, but also from less expected places. Her hairdresser, manicurist, housekeeper, alterations lady, shopkeeper…are all considered friends to her. She will strike up a conversation with a stranger and in the process of five minutes will already know their name, family situation, and whether they need a job referral, or even a date.

If you ask most people, they would say that her “healthy lifestyle”, the exercise, diet, supplements, and moderation is what keep her young. But a 10 year Australian study shows that it’s the other thing, the thing that comes as easy to her as breathing, her ability to form close friendships.

And her youthful figure? Of course, her exercise and diet are considered key factors in keeping her in great shape, but a recent shows that her circle of friends can also play a role in preventing obesity. In 2007, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that the risk of obesity increased by 60% when your circle of friends gained weight also!

And that’s not all, Harvard published research last year showing that social integration with friends, children and neighbors delayed memory loss by 60%!

I’ve always felt that time with my girlfriends gives me a boost of energy, and even though I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I did before marriage and kids, I treasure the time we do get to spend together. It’s great to see proof that it’s both physically and spiritually rewarding!

I wonder if the benefits of friendship outweigh the late night, oreo cookie-eating, red-wine drinking, chat-fests?

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