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Mindful Health

The Friendship Balm

September 6, 2017

Studies show that isolation decreases immune functioning and increases mortality risk. Cancer survivors with supportive friends in a group have twice the survival rate of those not in a group of friends. Close friends are strong indicators of mental, physical and spiritual health. Cultivating the art of friendship is not a luxury, but essential to work life balance and your health.

In addition, experiencing intimacy with a friend decreases blood pressure and heart rate and gives you an immune boost.  Individuals in a cardiac rehab group reduce their risk of death by 50% because of establishing friendships with others. You release serotonin and endorphins when you feel connected and related to someone else. Another brain chemical, oxytocin, is produced during bonding experiences. This hormone increases trust, reduces stress.

We have some new studies that show women with personal and close relationships with friends correlate with higher oxytocin levels in the blood stream. Researchers speculate that a close, regular relationship, where contact is maintained, may influence the responsiveness of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is shown to be associated with the ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, increase kindness and creates calm.

Take this month to cultivate your existing friends, or perhaps, branch out and open yourself up to the possibilities of new connections. Having good friends is like a balm and medicine for your mind, body and soul. And the best part is, you can get this effective “medicine” relatively easily and cheaply, too. No prescriptions needed! Just be yourself.

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