Saturday, November 7, 2009

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

I have a friend who is one of the hardest-working women on the planet. However, now that she is in her mid 60s, she is slowing down. Worst of all, her lack of zip has her feeling blue. This is a woman who works full time, takes care of an ailing spouse, keeps an immaculate house, cooks dinner, regularly attends Buddhist meetings and activities, and also assists her semi-retired husband in his business. We discussed diet, exercise, supplements, religion and a host of other topics to find solutions to boost her energy level. Then I came up with another idea – motivation through friendship.

My friend (I’ll call her “V”) is a brilliant woman, but I knew she was lacking in intellectual stimulation. I have felt that way myself. So we decided we needed more fun in our lives. The solution was to form a group of interesting women who were interested in attending cultural events, classes or activities. Since money is limited for several of us, we are checking into events that were free or cheap. This includes museums (many have no admission nights), concerts, plays, workshops at the library, attending art fairs, listening to authors at book signings, as well as a host of other activities.

We figured if we had a group of 10, we would most likely get three or four to attend any given event. Now that we are on the prowl for fun, it’s amazing how many activities there are to enjoy. My spouse, CB, suggested more athletic endeavors. And as valuable as that advice is, I know the most exercise a depressed woman wants to do is run screaming from the person who mentions it.

First things first. Start with a little fun, then maybe a bit of exercise. And I’m sure there will be some walking involved getting from the parking lot to the actual event. That counts for something, right?

I have been fortunate to have many wonderful friends in my life. However, as time goes by, it is easy to lose touch with one another. I’ve always made it a point to take the initiative and call up my friends – even if many years have passed. When I do, very often they tell me they had been thinking of me too, but just hadn’t had the chance to call. I’m not shy. I don’t mind being the one to call. The rewards far outweigh any goofy prideful thoughts of, “I called last time…blah, blah, blah.”

So it was not a big surprise to me when I read an article about friendship in MORE magazine and saw a little blurb on how there is scientific evidence that indicates friendships and extensive social networks can lower blood pressure; reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease; ward off depression; and make us less susceptible to the ravages of old age. The article quoted a Harvard Nurses; Health Study that found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to become physically debilitated as they grew older.

Of course women have known for years that having friends is more than a nice thing – it’s really a valuable ingredient in creating a joyful life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little chatter while pounding laundry on a rock near a stream, or sharing a dessert at a fancy restaurant, women value each other’s company.

In my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, I dedicate a section on the importance of having good friends. So if you have some great buddies, call them up and schedule a date. Don’t wait until you have “extra” time. It won’t happen. Good friendships are worth the time investment. And it’s good for your health. You want to argue with Harvard nurses? I don’t. And if you don’t have friends, go out and meet some. Or email me through the blog. You can always join up with my friends. They’re the best.

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