I had some time off this past Monday and Tuesday. We planned to travel to Monroe, Louisiana, where my youngest son’s high school basketball jersey was being retired Monday night. We decided not to make the trip due to COVID-19, but we were able to watch the halftime ceremony on Facebook. The gym hasn’t changed at all in the six years since he graduated, and I was immediately transported back to those wonderful, magical, yet nerve-wracking nights.
My son was part of a special group of five starters. When they were in the zone, it was awesome to watch. When they weren’t, it was painful. Today, one of them is married with children. One lost his father to this dreadful pandemic.
While a few of them have graduated college and moved on to good jobs, others are still finding their way to rewarding careers. But they remain close friends, and I hope they can hold on to those friendships throughout their lives.
Valentine’s Day is a good time to take stock of friendships. We use the day to celebrate romantic love, but friendships are just as important to us. In fact, it’s more apparent than ever how fundamentally important our healthy friendships are to our health and well-being. Life can feel empty and meaningless when we don’t have supportive friends with whom to share our journeys, celebrate our successes, and turn to for comfort and guidance during difficult times.
While friendships are our top priority in high school, it can be difficult for busy adults to put their cultivation of healthy friendships on the front burner. When you are juggling kids, a job, a spouse and a house, it can feel like an indulgence to just “hang out” with friends (either virtually or in person). However, what emerging research is uncovering is that prioritizing your healthy friendships, even if it feels like just hanging out, is actually one of the single, most important, impactful things you can do with your time and energy. It is important for our mental health as well as our physical and emotional health.
It can be difficult for busy adults to find the time and energy to create new friendships or invest in your existing friendships in order to make them stronger. But there is a measurable connection between friendship and health. For example, people who report having strong, healthy friendships live longer, have increased immunity to disease, and are often buffered from the chronic stressors that are known to impair our health and wellness.
Having emotionally supportive people to turn to has a measurable impact on our stress levels, both physically and emotionally.
There is a very well-established connection between stress levels and chronic health issues.
If you want to improve your health, it may very well be more impactful to spend an hour a day strengthening your positive friendships than hitting the gym by yourself.
This is just some food for thought this Valentine’s Day!
Christina Pierce is the publisher of The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine.