Sometimes friendship is one of those things we under-appreciate or even overlook. For much of my life, I didn’t value the friends I had made.
And then I got a wakeup call. It came when I found myself in a new community where I hadn’t made friends yet and was far away from those I had. Facebook didn’t exist; the internet was in its infancy. And I got cancer.
No casseroles were rolling in; no friends were around to cheer me up; I hardly knew anyone. I was seeing a therapist to cope; among all my fears and challenges, I told her how lonely and isolated I felt. And one day at the end of our session, she wrote something on a prescription pad and handed it to me:
Contact with friends:
To be taken twice daily, either by phone or in person.
She urged me to take it seriously and to start making new friends. And I did. I can’t say it cured cancer; but it cured my loneliness and isolation.
Over the years since, I made wonderful new friends here; and learned to value the friends I had everywhere else. And the older I get—and the emptier the nest gets— the more important those ties and those people have become.
This was never more true than during the very difficult past year. Honestly I don’t know what I would have done without my friends—old and new—and virtual—who have been there when I most needed them. Friends are a blessing—that really make a difference in your health and wellbeing.
That’s why an email I got today really resounded for me—even though I thought it was a dreaded chain letter. (Since I complained about them, I don’t get many chain letters.) Normally I don’t bother reading them. But this time I’m glad I did.
I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection–the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman. For a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
At first everyone laughed, but he was serious. Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more seratonin–a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities……. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged–not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!
So every time you hang out to shmooze with a gal pal or sister, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself. Let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends/sisters. Evidently it’s very good for our health.
I’ve read this message before; probably you have, too. Still, it’s a great reminder; and this was the perfect day for me to read it. I immediately felt validated for skipping the gym to have lunch with 3 girlfriends.
Another reason it was perfect timing–a close friend from high school who lives on the east coast just spent the last few days visiting. I loved every minute.
So this is a shout-out and a thank you to my amazing and wonderful female friends. I appreciate–and treasure you–more than I could ever say. Especially in our modern world where families are far away or fractured, friends often become our families. If you’re lucky enough to have them, hopefully you’re thoughtful enough to tell them that.
It can’t be repeated too often.
Like I just did.
My family often
complains says that I repeat myself. I think they’re wrong but maybe they’re right. As I was about to post this piece, I realized my forgetfulness is reaching a new high—or low. I don’t forget how grateful I am for my friends. But that email? Not only have I seen it before, I’ve written about it before. Two years ago for the American Cancer Society’s Choose You blog.
I hope I’m not the only one. Maybe you don’t remember it either. But don’t forget to let your friends know how much you treasure them. Nothing wrong with repeating that.