Remember American Top 40 on the radio? Casey Kasem would do a long-distance dedication with a sappy story of a soldier sending back love and a song to his sweetheart back home. As corny as it was, every one listened. Well, I’ve decided to make a special dedication for this new year 2019, and I hope you’ll listen. This dedication is going out to all my friends whom I didn’t spend enough time with in the last year. That’s right. In 2019, my priority is going to be my friends— not work, not home, but maintaining my relationships and creating new ones. I’m not talking about making new acquaintances. What we need to foster are real bonds of friendship. And it’s in all our interest to do the same. Why? Because it’s good for our health.
Try to connect with at least one close friend face-to-face every day.
You may think you’re strongly connected to people because you have a growing number of “friends” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But the truth is, the more social media expands, the lonelier people have become. According to the American Psychological Association, 42 million people over 45 suffer from chronic loneliness, a number that has doubled since the 1980’s. Add to that our aging population, and loneliness is being thought of as a serious and growing health epidemic. Researchers see a strong relationship between feelings of isolation and heart disease, stroke, and a weaker immune system.
If a friend calls, take the time to talk… not text.
We spend so much time thinking about what we need to do to improve our health. We strive for eight hours of sleep, increase our exercise, drink more water, etc. But if you really want to boost your wellness…find a friend. Friendship is like water: You can’t survive without it. And just as you need to drink eight glasses a day, maybe we should have a percentage of our day devoted to connecting with friends and finding new ones or just reaching out to someone who may be lonely.
Talk to friends on their birthdays, don’t just post something on social media.
The crazy thing about loneliness is you can be in a crowded room, come from a big family, work in a big organization, or even have a committed long-term relationship and still feel totally alone and disconnected. And while someone in the workplace may suggest smoking cessation for a smoker, or fitness classes for the obese, who’s helping lonely people? Who’s getting the word out that loneliness is a dangerous epidemic? Who’s telling the lonely where to go to find help?
Tell your friends how important they are in your life— it’s a matter of life and death.
When a friend invites you, do what you can to say yes.
Life is just better with good friends. Exercise is better with a friend. Whatever we’re up against seems more manageable. Wherever we go is more fun with a friend. And when we don’t feel like we have one, life just doesn’t feel worth living. It’s not just me saying this. Plenty of studies attest to the incredible force of friendship. And more and more health officials are taking heed to the warnings that chronic loneliness, that feeling of emptiness and isolation, may be the top health crisis we’re facing, more menacing than smoking or even obesity.
Loneliness is totally preventable. But we need to tell everyone what a danger it is. And we need to be there for people because strong social connections, good solid friendships change health outcomes.