IN­CREASE YOUR STRESS

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - SMALL STEPS -

“If you en­gage in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity with your friends, it’s prob­a­bly more easy to be­come a habit for you,” says Dr Ann-Marie Creaven, who adds, “it might be easy to take up a new hobby by your­self, but you’ll be more likely to keep go­ing if you have friends with you.”

That’s great if you all your friends are the sporty, healthy-eat­ing kind. But it be­comes prob­lem­atic — “if, for ex­am­ple your so­cial norm is go­ing for pints every night,” says Dr Creaven. That’s why it’s worth try­ing to ex­am­ine the cir­cles of so­cial in­flu­ence you are en­meshed in. “If your friend­ships are with peo­ple who are obese, you have a 70pc like­li­hood of be­ing obese,” warns Dr Ed­die Mur­phy.

6

THEY CAN SAVE YOUR MAR­RIAGE

Hav­ing a strong net­work of sup­port­ive friends helps mar­ried cou­ples weather the hard times to­gether, ac­cord­ing to a pa­per pub­lished in the jour­nal So­cial Psy­cho­log­i­cal and Per­son­al­ity Sci­ence, which found that “spouses who re­ported be­ing more sat­is­fied with the avail­abil­ity of friends and fam­ily” had lower lev­els of cor­ti­sol in their blood dur­ing times of mar­i­tal con­flict.

Ac­cord­ing to Lisa Neff, who led the study, hav­ing a sat­is­fy­ing so­cial net­work, “buf­fers spouses from the harm­ful phys­i­o­log­i­cal ef­fects of ev­ery­day mar­i­tal con­flicts.”

7

THEY PRO­VIDE A SENSE OF PUR­POSE

It’s not just what friends pro­vide for us, but what we pro­vide for them that does us good, ex­plains Dr Creaven.

“Friend­ships are an op­por­tu­nity for you to be a good friend to some­one else... by do­ing some­thing kind for some­body else you are strength­en­ing a friend­ship and you are also of­ten boost­ing your own sense of self worth,” she ex­plains.

“Be­ing there for some­body else, so long as you are not over­bur­dened by them, can also be good for your health and well-be­ing. It gives you a sense of pur­pose and you see some­one who is im­por­tant to you be­com­ing hap­pier be­cause of it which give you a pos­i­tive feel­ing.”

8

QUAL­ITY COUNTS MORE THAN QUAN­TITY

Not all friend­ships are equal when it comes to our health. “Good friend­ships are not when peo­ple are en­meshed or too close, or too dis­tant,” says Dr Ed­die Mur­phy. “There

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