What constitutes a happy and healthy life? According to several studies, maintaining positive relationships in your life is just as important to your health and well-being as diet and exercise.
That’s right: the people we surround ourselves with can have a big impact on our health. Research has even shown that maintaining positive friendships can actually be more vital to our overall well-being than family relationships.
Here’s why and how friendships are so important—especially later in life—and some suggestions on how to cultivate more of them.
How Friendships Impact Our Health and Well-Being
Friendships are beneficial to us both physically and emotionally. In fact, those who value close friendships have been found to experience better health outcomes, even when compared to those who valued family relationships only. Numerous studies have also found tangible health and wellness benefits related to friendship.
The following are just a few of the ways that friendships can benefit us.
Life is full of stressors. Worse, stress doesn’t only produce physical and mental discomfort, it actually ages our bodies. Too much of it can shorten our lifespan, too. This is because stress increases our blood pressure and disrupts our sleep and our immune systems.
However, strong friendships can help us reduce stress and other negative emotions. Talking about our emotions with close friends, or even small acts like a smile or a hug can also help relieve stress.
Promoting a Sense of Belonging
Humans are social creatures, which is why we like to be a part of groups where we feel that we belong, are loved and valued. A 2015 study found that those who experienced a sense of belonging were less likely to experience depression and hopelessness, leading to a reduction in suicidal thoughts and overall improvement in mental health.
Improved Cognitive Health
Having a large social network can also reduce the risk of dementia. While the cause is unknown, the effect is measurable. Experts suggest that making strong friendships could be as beneficial to cognitive health as not smoking, getting regular exercise and eating a nutrient-rich diet.
Longer Life Expectancy
Finally, strong social relationships have been found by numerous researchers to increase survival rates by 50% over the period studied. This is comparable to the mortality risk of “smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, greater than the risk of physical inactivity or obesity.”
Friendship Opportunities and Community Living
It can be difficult to form friendships later in life. Friends move or pass away, and there are less opportunities for social clubs and activities that fit into one’s lifestyle. In many cases, simply the act of prioritizing relationships can make all the difference. Seniors often find that moving to a Life Care Community like Abbey Delray can help them meet like-minded individuals and participate in shared activities with others.
Here are some suggestions for making and nurturing friendships:
- Take a stroll through your neighborhood or community and make a point of saying hello to those you encounter.
- Invite a friend to enjoy a museum or cultural event with you and suggest they bring a friend of theirs, too.
- Volunteer at a favorite charity or community organization.
- Enroll in an adult or continuing education class at a local university or community center. Many universities offer discounts to older adults, or even let them audit classes at no charge.
If you do move into a senior living community, make the most of your time there! Here are some ways to extend your social network.
- Attend group activities you enjoy. Many senior living communities offer a wide range of activities, from exercise classes to arts and crafts and educational outings. Make a point of signing up for one of these activities at least once a week.
- Dine with others. On-site dining venues are a wonderful place for residents to mingle. Look for opportunities to introduce yourself to others and ask if you may sit with them. Try finding a new dining companion for each meal.
- Enjoy the community common areas. Every community has shared common spaces where residents can enjoy themselves. See if someone wants to play a board game or work on a puzzle together. Strike up a conversation and see where it takes you!
Explore New Relationships at Abbey Delray
At Abbey Delray, we provide residents with numerous socialization opportunities to encourage new friendships and relationships. Our independent living residents also enjoy comfortable, private apartment options, chef-prepared meals and premium services and amenities, as well as priority access to our suite of on-site health services.
When it comes to selecting the perfect place to foster your mental, emotional and physical well-being, there really is no better place than Abbey Delray.