Magic Pill for Women's Health

January 14, 2018

It's not what you'd think. It's not a vitamin. It's not a pill. It's not a diet or exercise regimen. And the best part. It's free, and you probably already have some.

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Friends. A community. A tribe. 

Friendship is a "magic pill" for women's health, and the results can be incredible. For example, friends can kill your pain. I'm serious! Having a solid group of friends can actually increase your pain tolerance. [This totally explains CrossFit and other group fitness followings.] And it all has to do with endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers and a part of our brain's pleasure and pain circuits. It has been theorized that social interactions trigger endorphin release in the brain, leading to positive emotions and happiness when we see our friends. In fact, having close friendships may actually be more effective than morphine on pain. In addition to higher pain tolerance, close friendships have also been associated with lower stress levels and better stress management. [source]

 

Friends can help you heal from disease. In one particular Nurses' Health Study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers studied 2,835 women who were diagnosed with stages 1 to 4 breast cancer. They found that social-emotional support from confidants not only reduced stress and hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenal–axis reactivity, but also appeared to improve immunosurveillance against cancer recurrence. Investigators have suggested that "social-emotional support may be more critical than instrumental support for breast cancer survival." [source]

 

Friends may help you live longer. In article published by Harvard Medical School, the author reveals that dozens of studies [probably more] have shown that "people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality." One study, examining data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%. [source]

 

Friends provide accountability. We know the hardest part of healthy habits is sticking to them. Setting goals is the easy part. Reaching them, that's where things often get tricky. Solid friendships can provide the encouragement and support we need to follow through with the decisions we've made to improve our whole health--mind, body & soul. Whether it is attending a community focused group like Weight Watchers [not something I personally endorse, but a group that has consistently demonstrated the value of community for accountability], doing a Whole30 with a group of friends, participating in therapy or counseling, quitting smoking alongside another person, or exercising in a group setting, the result is the same. We are truly better together

 

However, with the busyness of life our friendships often take a backseat position to our other roles and responsibilities. Something I've resolved to be better at in 2018 is connecting with my friends. Here are 5 practices I'm implementing to prioritize friendship this year.

 

1. Send a text or email to a friend just to check in, say hi, or offer encouragement once per day.

 

2. Connect with a friend in person or on the phone for at least 30 minutes each week.

 

3. Send a care package to a non-local friend each month.

 

4. Spend time with friends for at least 4 hours [without kids] once per month.

 

5. Attend a class or share a meal with a friend once per month.

 

What a fun and painless way to improve our health, right? Sure it will require prioritizing and being intentional. Sure there will be other things that need to get done. But life is about choices. Let's choose well. And, if you're looking for a fun idea for a class to attend with friends, our Healthy Living Education class this week is a Make-n-Take Cooking Class featuring Tupperware. The class is facilitated by Mary Hopper. Fun. Food. Friends. It is sure to be a good time. Registration is required as space is limited. Sign up here. 

 

 

 

 

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