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How Maintaining Close Friendships Can Reduce Stress

Like in Real Life 


We love social media. Love it! Checking in to see how much Susan’s kids have grown, liking a photo of a college roommate playing with her new puppy. Gasping at the probably-too-revealing snap that the hairstylist shared. It’s fun, and it’s mindless. But here’s the thing, as far as stress is concerned, it doesn’t really count as a social interaction. There’s no voices, no eye contact, no give and take that’s so incredibly effective in reducing stress. So for today’s exercise, we’re gonna try something: connecting with our friends in real life.


It's science

  • Direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a "cocktail" of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety. In other words, when we communicate with people face-to-face, it could help to make us more resilient to stress factors in the long run.

  • Maintaining close friendships later in life could help to prevent mental decline. "SuperAgers," defined as people aged 80 and above but who have the mental agility of much younger people, appear to have one thing in common: close friends.


Where should you start?

This one’s a baby step, but can go a long way. Next time you reach down to your phone to text someone, call them instead. Hearing their voice, their intonation, and participating in the conversational back and forth will go a long way for connecting. And if you want to take it further, use this conversation to ask them if they’d like to have dinner together – even if that means each in your separate homes, video chatting through your meals. 


Extra credit

Plan a recurring event with your friends around something that interests you. A pizza night on the third Thursday of every month, or a book club, or poker night. Something that can become a regular event without upkeep. All of these things can be done virtually too! If this becomes a regular event, then when you hang out again in person you’ll have your routine built in.

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