Overwhelmed recently by the stress of an impending move – along with the usual demands of a busy life – I turned to the people I love.
In small chunks of time between tasks on my to-do list, I called and texted with my sister, my parents, local friends and old friends scattered around the country. Some conversations turned my stress into laughter. Others made me cry. One friend came over to clean out my closet. Then she took our kids for four hours so we could pack without interruption.
With each hug, conversation and gesture of support, I started to feel better. As it turns out, those feelings may be paying long-term dividends, too: According to accumulating evidence, strong relationships breed better health, with benefits that include resilience against heart disease and a longer life.
It’s encouraging research that’s worth paying attention to. When life gets hectic, making time for friends can be a challenge. And some studies suggest that many of us have fewer friends today than our parents did a generation ago.
Those obstacles make prioritizing relationships all the more important, experts say.
“A good friendship is a wonderful antidepressant,” says psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus. “Relationships are so powerful, we don’t always appreciate the many levels at which they affect us.”