There are few things more fun than making lasting memories with your best friend, whether it's just you two joking around at home or taking adventures together around the globe. Your best friend is your support system, your source of endless inside jokes, and the person you can't stay angry with for long. Being with your best friend can be a surefire way to relax and have fun, even when life feels incredibly hectic. And now, according to a recent study, it also seems that spending time with your best friend may be legitimately healthy for you.
As you get older, you might find that making time for your friends becomes more and more difficult. Often, making plans with your besties gets pushed to the side for other things — plus, after a while, we kind of start to take advantage of the fact that it feels like they'll always be there. But this new study found that as you age, friendships can help you be even healthier. So, if you needed another reason to reunite with your besties, this is it.
The study, done by researchers at Northwestern University, looked at a group of 50 elderly people, and found that many of them attribute their good health to a packed social calendar. Within the 50 elderly people studied, 31 were "SuperAgers" and 19 were cognitively average-for-age peers. The "SuperAgers" referred to men and women over the age of 80 with "episodic memory and impressive cognitive awareness."
The group was asked to fill out a 42-item questionnaire that included questions about their psychological well-being. In the end, researchers found that the thing that made the SuperAgers stand out was their answers about relationships. SuperAgers reported having more satisfying, warm, trusting relationships than their "average" peers.
Researchers weren't particularly shocked by these results, which line up quite well with other research that links "positive relationships to a reduced risk of cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia." A study from this past June found that friendships might even be more important than family in terms of keeping people healthy. In 2016, a study found that the benefits of friendship can be just as important as diet and exercise. Other studies over the years have found that friendship can do everything from making you live longer to making you feel less stressed.
So, there's no doubt about it: maintaining strong and close friendships, no matter how old you are, is incredibly important. It makes total sense! Being with a close friend makes you feel good, and being happy and positive is essential to living a healthier lifestyle. Friends make you laugh, they ease stress, they give great advice (most of the time), and they keep you busy — which is especially important in terms of declining mental health as you age.
While researchers haven't figured out exactly how SuperAgers sustain these close relationships, it's not too hard to figure it out. Make time for your friends, even when you're feeling super busy. You don't need to see them every day, but you should make plans for at least once every few weeks. And with phones and social media, there's no reason you guys can't text or chat every few days.
You don't even have to have a group of best friends to reap these health benefits. One of the SuperAgers who participated in the study says she smiles at everyone, asks how they are, and always makes an attempt to remember their names. She also says she calls her friends every day, even for just a short conversation. It's about staying social, outgoing, and friendly.
So, seriously, put more effort into your friendships. Reach out to them whenever you need a boost of happiness. Hang with them when you have time. Tell them how important they are to you, and pay attention to what's going on in their lives. It's fun, and it will include the quality of your life in all aspects. What other reason do you need?!