I just spent a lovely evening with six other women with whom I have been friends for over 20 years. Today, I feel wonderful. There's a reason for that positive feeling.
It is well established that our brains are social. Neuroscience is confirming what we have always known: we are better -- healthier and happier -- when we have friends. We are also more productive and live longer! A pretty easy sell about the importance of nurturing social relationships, I'd say!
On the other hand, I'll bet you have noticed that when you are doing less well, when you are more stressed, feeling sad, or engulfed in worry, you have a tendency to isolate yourself from others. That isolation actually magnifies, and prolongs, those negative states.
So, if you're thinking that you might want to re-connect with some old friends, or cultivate some new friends, here are 15 reasons to get you started:
1) It just feels good to hang out with people who choose to be there with you.
2) You always have someone to laugh at your jokes, or to tell you that the joke is really lame.
3) A friend will tell you if you have broccoli stuck between your teeth.
4) Friends are loyal to you, and will defend you when you need them (unless you are off-course, and then they'll help you see that, and to get back on track).
5) If you are moving, caring for an aging parent, struggling with child care, or challenged to meet a project deadline, a friend will pitch in to help without hesitation.
6) You can be with your friend and be totally silent, and it is OK -- there is no pressure to perform.
7) Friends are honest, in a caring way -- if you've messed up, they'll call you on it, help you to clean it up, and encourage you to carry on.
8) Friends keep secrets -- unless, of course, they'll hurt you or someone else -- then they'll help you deal with it.
9) Friends are fun.
10) You can learn so much about the world and different perspectives on it, because there is no age limit, race restriction, or gender preference for a friend.
11) Your brain will be filled with serotonin because you will smile so often.
12) You'll make more friends because you are smiling so much (see #11).
13) You can ask anything and it will not be judged (and you realize your friend wondered the same weird thing themselves).
14) You have people to call on when you want to have a party.
15) Friends make you smarter -- when you have positive feelings about other people -- and you believe in them (and trust they believe in you) - your brain simply works better, faster, and more efficiently.
Whether or not your friends at work are friends outside of work, viewing them as friends will positively impact your brain chemistry -- and theirs too! Check out the photo at the top of this article. Holly and Debbie are co-workers at Chancellor Dental Centre. I asked to take their picture as part of the collection I have of Positive People at Work. Isn't it interesting how they posed for the picture? They are friends -- and I think that helps them to be Positive at Work.
This Dental Centre is humming along -- and it's because the culture nurtures friendly relationships like Holly and Debbie experience. And, without question, that helps those of us who are 'in the chair' at that Dental Centre have a more positive experience no matter what the news from the Dentist! This article by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis in Harvard Business Review reinforces how important social relationships are to leadership effectiveness and to organizational success.
I'd love to hear the reasons that your friends (work and non-work) rock. Leave them in a comment here and I'll add them to a blog post in the future. I wonder how many we can collect when we come together on this!
Also on HuffPost:
While countless articles, films and documentaries have chronicled the lives of both America’s most famous sex symbol and the Queen of Jazz respectively, most leave out an important detail: their friendship with each other. Marilyn, who idolized and was inspired by Ella, supported her friend in the face of racism, by helping her get her first gig at a prominent nightclub in 1955 by promising to sit in the front row of the audience every night for a week.
Marlo Thomas and Gloria Steinem met in 1967 when an agent pitched the idea of Marlo playing Gloria in a TV-movie. The movie never happened (and the agent turned out to be quite offensive), but the two activists have remained friends ever since. Says Marlo about Steinem, “We have been confidantes, soul mates and sisters.”
Beyoncé and Kelly's friendship dates back to their days as two of the three members of Destiny's Child. Though both went their own way over a decade ago, the two have remained close friends. Despite recent reports to the contrary, Kelly insists, "I love my sister. [Beyoncé] is so incredibly supportive. [She is] one of the closest people to me."
Cruz and Hayek (who have been friends since early on in their careers) first worked together on the film “Bandidas.” In fact, they almost died together when the plane taking them to the set nearly crashed in 2006. Their friendship was strong even then -- Penelope said about the experience, “A thought came across my mind that if I were to die at that moment, at least I’d die with my best friend.”
These hilarious women met in 1993 at an improv class in Chicago and continued to work together throughout the years at the "Upright Citizens Brigade" and "SNL" (where the two co-hosted the segment “Weekend Update” from 2004-2006). They eventually collaborated on films such as "Mean Girls" and "Baby Mama." Amy has said about Tina, "She’s...really, really funny and incredibly hard-working and a very supportive and loyal friend." Tina once quipped about Amy, "We're like Oprah and Gayle. Only we're not denying anything."
It seems that life imitates art for McCarthy and Bullock, who play a crime-fighting duo in this summer's much anticipated buddy comedy "The Heat." The film's director, Paul Feig, described the actresses as "inseparable…Normally after movies, those friendships go away. Theirs blossomed.”
"Oprah and Gayle" are names that have practically become synonymous with "female friendship." Oprah has said of their friendship: "I wish every person on earth to experience somebody to care for them and to know them in such a way that they only want the best for you… When you become famous...a lot of people lose oxygen and they can’t make the summit with you. [It's good] to be able to have somebody who not only can make the summit, but stand at the summit with you and rejoices in your being able to make it.”
It just makes sense that these two women, who are arguably better at their respective jobs than most other humans ever, discovered they are kindred spirits. The photo of the two taking a selfie at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Gala dinner became an instant classic, and Meryl gave a heartfelt introduction for Hillary Clinton at the 2012 Women In The World Summit stating, “She has turned out to be the voice of her generation. I’m an actress, and she is the real deal.”
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