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!
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