How Friends Relieve Stress and Help Us Cope

How close relationships relieve stress and keep you healthy.

Having friends may well keep you healthier and help you deal with stress better. Some studies show that people with close friends have a greater ability to fight disease than people who are solitary.

Make friendship a priority. Find the time to be with friends even if it means letting the lawn go unmowed or the dishes unwashed for a while. When you can’t get together, use the phone to keep in touch.

Open up to close friends. Maintaining a deep friendship requires a level of “psychological intimacy.” Don’t be afraid to express your inner fears and disappointments.

Listen to your friends when they have problems, but offer advice only when it’s wanted. Help reaffirm friends’ self-esteem when they are shaken by a job loss, divorce, or other such event.

Have different friends for different activities, such as going to the movies, singing in a choir, and participating in a bowling league.

Don’t wait for a friend to ask a favor. When a friend has the flu, offer to go to the store or drive the children to their after-school activities.

Never take a friendship for granted. Like a good marriage, friendship needs nurturing and patience.

Become a joiner. Find a group that matches your interests. You might look to your church or synagogue for activities. Or try a library, a health club, or an amateur sports group.

You can also start a group, such as a discussion group on gardening or books. Place an ad in a community newspaper to find people.

Talk to strangers (using discretion and common sense, of course). Conversations started in museums, laundry rooms, or bookstores can lead to firm friendships.

Enroll in an adult-education course. A classroom is an ideal place to meet others with similar interests.