Friendships & Immunity
It is said that friendships enrich your life and improve your health. (Mayo Clinic) For this blog I thought it would be great to talk about a topic that many of us may not correlate directly to immunity. When we look at the wheel of balance there are generally 8 pieces of the pie. One of those pieces is relationships, both social and intimate. When one piece of the pie in the wheel of balance has a low satisfaction level, it can be a major hindrance for the rest of our life. Therefore, focusing on our friendships is more than just a nice to do and more of a way to meet our basic needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs puts belonging and love in the top five basic human needs for a reason. Therefor a great friendship can feel like a good old dose of vitamin C.
As I get older, I begin to realize that friendships can be hard to maintain. They do not come as effortless as they once did when inhibitions were high, and responsibilities were low. Due to this a lot of us may hang in the balance of is the effort worth it? Are they putting in as much work as I am? As a person who has a lot of closer friendships, it took me years to figure out that equality in friendships matter. Time is a valuable resource and as we add more responsibility to our plate as we get older, time available can feel less and less. However, instead of brushing off friendships as nice to have, we need to start realizing they are incredibly important to our health. So how do we expand that mindset and yet keep our precious time sacred? It is hard, but worth it.
First, we need to take inventory. We don’t need a lot. We only need connection. That connection can come from one very dear friend, or it can come from a few. Over my time on this planet, I have had to do a lot of evaluation on where friends land. It can be a painful process as reality might be different from our perceived expectation. However, when we finally settle in and accept what is, it allows so much more room for the inner circle that will flourish. Inventory is not judgement, and it does not need to feel that way. It simply is an evaluation of effort. Who is willing and able to match your energy level and investment into the friendship? Who can give more than you and who is able to give less? There is no right or wrong to these answers, they are simply information. When you have evaluated, you can decide, what energy level am I willing to show up with? Who can I match, who can I give more to and who might I need to give less? It is also ebbing and flowing all the time, so it can change, and pivot as needed.
If you are anything like me, I have mourned a lot of versions of my friendships. I have had the same nucleus of women throughout most of my life. A lot has really changed dynamics since the dream I created for them when I was young. I have learned we can spend a lot of time dwelling on what might have changed in friendships, and that in and of itself can cause stress and weaken immunity. It is important to grieve and mourn things that have transformed into something far less comfortable than it used to be. It is also important to repair when a breakdown might occur. That really is where the magic can happen. We get to choose to transform, grow and heal together.
Thriving with Connection
Regardless of if your story is like mine, where there has been a lot of years of sadness, pain, rebirth, growth, and true gratitude for ever changing friendships, or you have just found your one person in adulthood, the message is the same. Friendships are hard & they are worth it. They hold so many benefits to our health. They are grounded in connection and connection is what helps us thrive. Connection enhances our ability to relieve harmful levels of stress. They also induce caring, and the feeling of caring ignites stress-reducing hormones in our bodies. It is important to know that the quality of the relationship matters.
Quality relationships can be formed in many ways, and it does not always mean it has to be the person you spend the most time with. The way you respond to a text to someone can inform the quality of the friendship. A few words can be a higher quality relationship than someone you physically see more often. It is about how the two individuals feel after the interaction. A few tips on how to enhance the quality of a friendship, which will in turn help boost your immunity:
- Call them rather than text
- Ask if you can help them with something
- Plan a meet up. Life is busy, and planning makes all the difference.
- Check in on the most uneventful days and times
- Remember the little things
- Know their love language – it matters in friendships too!
- Engage in experiences, not things
- In most cases, match the energy they are willing and able to put in. In hard life circumstances, go above and beyond.
- Always repair where a breakdown might occur
Our nervous system requires experiences that help to quiet it down, relax it and regulate it. Great friendships can be one of these antidotes. We just must make sure our approach to them is healthy and mutually beneficial. It is important to take the inventory, make the effort where it feels good and show up when needed. Overall, your immunity will thank you as it is a key essential to health.