They say, “Laughter is the best medicine.”

However, laughter will not clear up a rash, treat an ear infection or alleviate a sore throat. I know this because last week I was hit with a nasty cold and after watching eight episodes of Friends in a row, I didn’t feel any better. Laughter is definitely not the best medicine.

What is the “best medicine?”

Recent studies have shown that people with an active social circle (friends) are more positive, less stressed, have lower blood pressure, have better quality sleep, are less likely to get sick, and have a boosted immune system. So, it turns out friendship is really good medicine.

Cold and flu season is upon us and it’s very important to stay healthy. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, washing your hands regularly, and being social will help keep you strong and healthy. But sometimes, no matter how much vitamin C you take, how much sleep you get, how much hand sanitizer you douse yourself with, or how much you try to avoid being in the direct line of someone’s sneeze — you’ll still get a nasty bug.

Last week I had a sore throat, a hacking cough, a fever, chills, and a runny nose. At times like these I really just want to stay in bed, watch a lot of television, eat a lot of Girl Scout cookies, and feel very sorry for myself.

While I was hiding under my duvet, the phone rang.

One of my best friends called to tell me she was thinking of me. I have known this particular friend my entire life, and we’ve been through a lot together. Good times and bad times, sickness and health.

Over the course of our conversation, I started to feel better. I even laughed! And while my nose still ran like a faucet, I felt supported, encouraged and cared for.

Scottish writer and author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson once said,

A friend is a present you give yourself.

It’s so true, isn’t it? Friendship is such a gift.

A healthy friendship is built on give and take, spending time together, supporting and encouraging one another, being there for one another, in sickness, and in health. Having good friends can help prevent you from getting sick, but even if you do get sick … it’s nice to know that somebody cares.

Which is why it can be so important to reach out to a friend, even when you feel like hiding under a duvet. No, especially when you feel like you want to hide under your duvet. They might be hiding under their duvet, too!

Spending time with friends can help you stay connected and feel strong and healthy. So, phone a friend! Make a date for a coffee, movie or a walk. Friendship really is good medicine.*

*But while friendship is very good medicine, medicine — as prescribed by a medical professional — is actually the very best medicine. So be sure to rely on their expert advice, too!

When has a friendship particularly strengthened you?

Image via Valerie Grant 

2 comments

  1. Hi Maddy, Thanks for your comment. I drew from a few studies that connected friendship to overall health. And yes, it is hard to say for sure which influences the other, but I think both the physical (a balanced diet and exercise) and social (even when you would rather stay inside) are equally important.

  2. Do people with active social lives become more healthy and happy, or do people who are healthy and happy have better social lives? Which influences the other? It’s hard to prove it either way. I think a lot of things you say here are helpful and true, but be careful not to make spurious correlations off of vague scientific studies!

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