Research has found the importance of our friends in keeping us healthy mentally and so taking that trip with them is what we really need right now.
Ladies, the first thing to do when the pandemic has passed and the right vaccine keeps the virus away is take an all-girls trip! Like we need a reason to get out. But yes, apart from breaking the monotony of staying indoors and busting the stress caused by 2020, here is another reason to step out with your girlfriends when it is safe to travel.
In a 2016 study published in a book called Behavior, researchers discovered that spending time with your friends aids in the release of oxytocin, the neurotransmitter otherwise known as the "love" hormone. You become more trusting and friendlier when this hormone is released, which puts your nervous system at ease as it switches from fight-or-flight mode to a more secure, self-contained mode. What's more, having healthy, long-lasting friendships can extend life expectancy, lower chances of heart disease, and even help us better tolerate pain. While it may be difficult to trust the veracity of this statement, plenty of studies prove that forming such bonds with the people we invite into our circle is good for us.
In another study called "Associations among relational values, support, health, and well‐being across the adult lifespan" published in the journal Personal Relationships, William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology found a correlation between friendships and a person's health and happiness throughout their life. This was even more visible in older adults as friendships proved to be a more effective predictor of their physical and mental state than their relationship with members of their family. "Friendships become even more important as we age," said Chopik. "Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So it's smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest."
To help validate his theory, he conducted two studies and in the first one, he analyzed survey information about relationships and self-rated health and happiness. With data from 271,053 participants from nearly 100 countries of varied ages, the results helped him conclude that good, solid friendships contributed to better overall health. But with his second survey covering 7,481 older adults, revealed how important the support of friends is to be a healthy adult. Those who felt stressed out by their friendship were more susceptible to suffering chronic illnesses while the converse was true for people with nurturing and happy friendships.
"There are now a few studies starting to show just how important friendships can be for older adults. Summaries of these studies show that friendships predict day-to-day happiness more and ultimately how long we'll live, more so than spousal and family relationships," Chopik stated. "Friendships help us stave off loneliness but are often harder to maintain across the lifespan. If a friendship has survived the test of time, you know it must be a good one — a person you turn to for help and advice often and a person you wanted in your life."
Not to mention, these good friendships can also increase your life span and help prevent dementia. For the former, a study by researchers using a sample of 148 prior studies, which had analyzed the link between social relationships and lifespans over the average of 7.5 years, found that people with strong social relationships had a directly proportional effect on the chances of survival. On the other hand, those without such a bond were at a higher risk of premature death by 50%. That's almost the same effect as smoking at least 15 cigarettes a day. "I think we make a compelling case that social relationships should also be taken quite seriously in terms of reducing the risk of mortality," said study researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychologist at Brigham Young University in Utah.
In 2012, another study was conducted with 2,200 people between the ages of 65 and 86 living in the Netherlands who were confirmed to not suffer from dementia. During the study, results showed that people who were lonely were 1.64 times more likely to develop dementia than others. Researchers also found that 9.3% of people who lived alone developed dementia compared to 5.6% of people who were living with someone. It proved that those who were socially isolated ran a higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline than those who formed healthy emotional bonds with their loved ones.
Women, who are more prone to kinds of mental ailments, will benefit all the more when they spend time with other women in mutually supportive relationships. Women tend to share more with the same gender in the absence of the opposite gender. They also tend to feel more at ease and explore topics that are soulful and insightful. Let's hope the next year gives us ample opportunity to travel safely and joyfully. Here's to a happier and healthier year!