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Nourish all relationships this Valentine’s Day

February 12th, 2013

By Ann Robinson, HCI staff

Valentine’s Day is about relationships that nourish us. Studies show that all connections, including a parent or child, a long-time friend, a romantic partner, or a “walking buddy” are important to life-long health and happiness, and may be as important as eating your vegetables.

Shelley Taylor, a professor of psychology at UCLA and author of The Tending Instinct found that friendships among women that involve non-judgmental listening, with someone who is available in person in good times and bad works like medicine. “Social support brings down our blood pressure, signals our adrenal glands to stop pumping out corticosteroids, and voila! We feel less anxious, less overwrought, less overwhelmed. We may even live longer as a result of coping this way.” (Ladies Home Journal, the Healing Power of Friendship).

These benefits are not exclusive to women. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that men with a large network of friends decreased their risk of heart disease by 82%. Other studies reveal that one close friend is enough to extend your life by as much as ten years and chances of recovery from serious illness are improved by the ties of friendship. Friends even help you avoid the common cold.

Making friends and keeping them takes time and energy, especially for those who are shy. Here are some tips to make finding and keeping friends easier:

  • Volunteer
  • Join an exercise class.
  • Be part of Move it Monday’s through Beaver Strides
  • Take a class at the OSU Craft Center 
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Join a spiritual organization

Tips for keeping friends:

  • Say “yes” to invitations
  • Extend invitations to others
  • Talk in person, not just on the phone or over email
  • Do things together
  • Listen
  • Share the positive, not just the negative
  • Only offer advice when it is invited
  • Keep confidential conversations confidential
  • Laugh together

Most American’s consider Valentine’s Day a day for romance. Many other cultures use the day to acknowledge the friends and family members who make their lives complete. This year think about celebrating the holiday by letting important friends know they matter.

Works used to support this article:

Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Apr. 2011. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “What Are Friends For? A Longer Life.” New York Times. N.p., 20 Apr. 2009. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/21/health/21well.html?_r=1&>.

Franklin, Claire. “Strong Friendships Increase Life Expectancy.” Smart Living Network. N.p., 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.smartlivingnetwork.com/health-interest/b/strong-friendships-increase-life-expectancy/>.


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