Good friends are good for our health.

By Melissa Locker
April 01, 2020
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Southerners—and the world—are working together to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic by staying home, bravely battling on the frontlines in hospitals and medical clinics, or continuing their essential work. As we all adjust to the new reality created by the novel coronavirus, people are finding new ways to spread cheer and kindness around town and online, and new ways to connect with friends from a safe distance. While there are a lot of serious issues in the world, taking time to cheer yourself up is important, too. In fact, connecting with friends is good for both your mental and your physical health—and in the midst of a pandemic, keeping up your health is incredibly important.

While we all love our families, spending a lot of time with them during isolation, may have you longing to talk to someone (anyone) outside of your immediate family. Don’t feel guilty about that, because it has been proven that friendship is incredibly good for your health. It can extend life expectancylower chances of heart disease, and even help us better tolerate pain. Back in 2016, researchers found evidence that hanging out with friends can increase production of oxytocin, the feel good hormone that our bodies release when we’re happy. Science has also shown that oxytocin can make people more trusting, more generous, and friendlier. Good traits for a global health crisis, right?

Plus, if you’re struggling to carve out time to exercise while you’re isolating at home, a 2010 review of research found that good friendships and strong social ties might be better for you than exercise and can be the health equivalent of quitting smoking. Another study showed that spending time with friends can lower your risk of dementia.

It can be hard to keep up your mental health in a crisis, but connecting with friends may help.

A recent study by researchers at Northwestern University found a link between brain health and positive relationships like those with your good friends.

While you can’t meet your best friend in person or vacation with your friends right now, there are ways stay to stay in touch with your best friend right now. Set up a Friday night online happy hour, a FaceTime tea break, or just a phone call from the comfort of your couch. Put together a Zoom or HouseParty reunion of your sorority sisters. Get a gaggle of girls in face masks for a long-distance slumber party. Have a virtual dinner soiree by setting the table, serving up your meal, and launching your web camera with friends doing the same thing at their dinner tables. Be creative! If you can get the gang together (online) at least twice a week, researchers at England’s Oxford University say that may even be good for your health. Regardless, it'll make you happier to catch up.