Lamenting the friend that got away? We’ve all been there. The psychology of friendship includes several important parts of wellness: empathy, cheerleading and companionship. Humans are an interconnected species, and just as food and water are vital to survival, more than a century of psychology research in areas such as Attachment and Object Relations Theories indicates that relationships are required for sustenance. Friendships balanced in action and availability influence our health in remarkable ways.
At the start of the New Year, we often reflect on our health regarding fitness and food, but resolutions regarding the quality of friendships hold a similar potential for making 2012 the best yet. Here are a few places to begin your friendship inventory:
The pace of life continues to pick-up. In part, we’re living in an era racing to keep-up with what can be done just as or more quickly via technology. And as gas prices continue to rise back up again, we’re left with pressure to work work work. This year, keep in mind that scheduling time with a friend – even a coffee break or happy hour cocktail – should be just as fundamental to your weekly schedule as Yogalates and laundry. Unless deliberate about making plans, friendship often becomes a part of life shifted to the back burner.
Connect beyond the virtual world.
It’s easy to become conditioned to social media as a means for connection. But shutting down the devices and enjoying some face to face time with a close friend has benefits beyond tending to an addiction. When we see people we care about in the flesh, our brains jolt us with healthy dopamine levels that in turn fuel a better immune system, outlook on life and ability to deal with day-to-day small problems. The friendly interactions do not have to be solely saturated by joy and laughter, simply the chemical rush of feeling understood and cared for by another are the basics of dopamine health.
Opposites can attract, even regarding friendship and geography. So, one of you lives in the city and the other out in burbs? This is more a dilemma to inspire than a barrier to getting together. Explore cities and towns between the two of you. Little known enclaves out of the city like West Chester or Media host a variety of restaurants and small businesses. Seek new charms together. If you’re separated by states, pick one in between. The act of planning together will bring closeness long before boarding the plane or packing the car.
Motivate toward activities that require movement. Recently Yahoo Health posted a story on the Big Butt difficulties of sitting all day, despite an otherwise healthy food and fitness lifestyle. Make plans that will expand the minutes you are moving each week. Exerting energy is often less noted when in the company of people we like because we’re positively distracted, stimulated by companionship and motivated by their own efforts. Meet at the driving range or hit-up a local Salsa night.
No matter your resolve, may friendships inspire a better life this 2012!