Your Friends Really Do Mean Everything to You!
It was a night out of some horror movie. A dear, beloved aunt had died very suddenly from a stroke and family and friends had just been through a grueling funeral. It was 8pm, getting dark, and the torrential rains were accompanied by sonorous thunder and insistent lightning. Most of those gathered tried their best to huddle into the little protective rain gear they had to make a run for it. One young lady,obviously deeply grieving for the very deep loss, opted to sit down next to me- not before I noticed her dependence on the cane at her side.
We both knew of the curves life had thrown her this year, and this was the first moment we were seeing each other face to face. She had come through serious surgery and brutal treatments and now was successfully winning the battle with her fierce determination in her rehabilitative process.
She looked up at me with her radiant eyes, and her exquisite face was aglow as she talked about the legions of friends who had rallied to her from the first moment on…. and whose size and commitment just kept growing. She evinced amazement as she exclaimed… “I never knew I had so many friends. They have been amazing! At first I could not believe how many people took the time to reach me on any level they could. They pulled me through. They’re sharing every moment. I couldn’t have done this without them”.
She attributes her friends’ prayers and actions for pulling her through…and now, she knows they will be accompanied by her most ardent guardian angel. She’ll discard that cane soon!
The impact of friendship on our quality of life is fairly well known, but recently there has been a flurry of scientific studies on the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health- they are undeniably powerful weapons in fighting the scourge of illness, depression, kick- start recovery, slow the aging process and prolong life.
A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends.
A 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight.
In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, attachment to a single person didn’t appear to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendship did.
And though you’d think proximity of one’s friends would be a determining factor in their influence on your health, that is not the case, as the benefits reverberate well beyond physical presence or distance.
“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”