Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

Friends Can Rekindle Our Inner Spirit

Friends Can Rekindle Our Inner Spirit
It is a well-documented fact our health is influenced by factors that include our social well-being. Studies demonstrate a direct link between the number of significant relationships in our lives and a reduced risk for disease, mental illness, and early death. It turns out that feeling cared-for, valued, and part of a community make a profound difference in the quality and duration of our lives.

"People with social support have fewer cardiovascular problems and immune problems, and lower levels of cortisol — a stress hormone," says Tasha R. Howe, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Humboldt State University. "Why? The evolutionary argument maintains that humans are social animals, and we have evolved to be in groups. We have always needed others for our survival. It's in our genes. Therefore, people with social connections feel more relaxed and at peace, which is related to better health." 
Relationships are an essential part of health. What's more, they help keep our brains from getting rusty, especially when augmented by a healthy lifestyle, a nutritious diet, and regular physical activity.
As study after study notes, friends are a key asset. They help us face adverse events, provide concrete assistance if we need it, offer emotional support and information that can help us deal with the stress in our lives. Friends can encourage us to take better care of ourselves.
People with wider social networks are also typically higher in self-esteem, and feel they have more control over their lives. On the whole, people with extensive networks of good friends and confidantes outlive those with the fewest friends. Conversely, isolation and loneliness create responses in the body similar to those of stress.
The body functions best when we are connected to other people. Activity is crucial to our happiness. Doing something fun and new expands our repertoire of experiences, and lets us see ourselves in new ways. Individuals who continue to maintain close friendships and find other ways to interact socially live longer than those who become isolated.
Social workers at the Jewish Home understand how important friendships are for our residents. Through exciting activities such as arts and crafts, exercise classes, field trips, movie nights, concerts, and discussions, our seniors can gather, interact, and play. "We believe that, however you may feel, get up, dress up, and show up," says Devorah Small-Teyer, director of social services for JEKMC. "You'll feel better with friends."