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Life Support: Bonds That Better Your Life

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Do you remember how important it was in high school to have friends in your life? In fact, the more the merrier. It gave you something to do (for the most part always) and it helps you achieve the status of “popular” which was, oh so important back then.

Fast-forward a few years, and having a significant other took precedence over friends and often family to the tune of changing our plans with them at the drop of a hat for that “special” person in our lives. Then, in college, at least toward the end, whether you were in a relationship or not, the focus shifted on merging the two. The two of you found ways to share your time with your respective families, and going out become a “group” effort as other couples (you considered) friends joined you on your sojourns and excursions.

But, once life began taking shape, a job, a home, “the ring” and the “I do’s” with a pinch of family and finances and the time and energy you (once) had for a good time was far more limited.

With most of us working an 8-hour day (at minimum) and having at least a 30 to 45-minute drive at best, we barely have time to eat dinner before bedtime and spend time with our own family. And, even with cell phones, blackberries, and other devices designed to make our life “easier”, and make it easier for us to keep in touch, interpersonal communication seems to be dying art.

But, we all still crave friendship, and want to make connections or keep them. In fact, experts assert that building bonds and sharing life with others is one of the best ways we can help ourselves maintain our physical and emotional well-being. In fact, evidence reveals that solid and satisfying friendships can help eliminate stress (or at least most stressors) and boost our overall mood. Furthermore researchers suggest that there seems to be link with lack of friends and lack of confidence and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. And, studies shoed that after a year of regular meeting with “befrienders” (assigned to them) 65 percent of the women recovered from their depression compared to only 40 percent of the ladies who’d been assigned to a waiting list. In fact, the powerful and positive impact of friendship, according to experts, were comparable to antidepressants or cognitive therapy.

They note that when women suffer stressful situations, their immediate reaction if to vent, usually to a trusted family member or friend. And, even if there is no solution necessarily in site the ability to get it “off their chest” works “miracles”. According to professionals, talking and physical contact both release the hormone oxytocin, which has a calming effect on the body and mind. And, some experts go on to say that the more friends a woman has, the less likely she is to develop physical impairments with age.

Still, finding friends who understand the art of friendship or whom we have time for us or vice-versa can stress us out even more. And, that’s often the reason may friendships change over time, as life changes, and eventually lapse and fade. And, by doing so we are putting our relationships and our well-being at risk. Here are some suggestions for improving both.

· Too Busy To Bond: While it’s a fact that friendships reduce stress, it’s also a fact that nourishing them can be equally as stressful, especially on most of our timetables. However, experts find that those who carve out some personal time to pamper themselves and their relationships showed significant declines in stress-related symptoms such as headaches and body aches.

· Fear Of Fair Weather Friends: Sometimes it feels that our friends are comfortably involved in their own lives, and any effort on our part is just an “intrusion” Or, it can feel like they are there only when “they” need something (from us). Lets face it we are already stressed we don’t need our friends to add to it. We should listen to each other, but if your friend is using you as a “sounding board” or if they are constantly hitting you up for money or favors, the only way to get past it is by being honest. Remember, enabling a bad behaviour is not a friendly thing to do. Just remember to be kind and loving when sharing your (honest) sentiments.

Keep in mind that getting past the “bad stuff” is preferable, since it can help your feel better and even live longer….at least that’s what the results of a five year study showed.

· Transitions That Result In Falling Out Of Touch: You’re married, your BF is not. You have a family, you’re favorite couple doesn’t, we all know the “difficulties” and excuses, in fact we all have them. But, that doesn’t mean we have to let them stand in our way. In fact, to quote and old “adage” where there’s a will there’s a way”. So, if you want friends, YOU may have to make the effort, and if you want to keep them, the same may hold true. And, if friends seem to become increasingly unavailable, find out when they typically have time to talk and for how long. Accept the changes and try your best to work with them…and explain your new lifestyle (changes) to your friends as well. Remember, when it comes to chatting and keeping in touch, there’s always email.

· Meeting In The Middle: While you may be tired of hearing about her children, she may be stressing over your latest marital squabble or dating excursion. Still, that’s no reason to give up the friendship. Even if you’ve grown apart in certain areas, there are likely still things you share; in fact, they are probably what brought you together in the first place. Again, experts suggest working around your differences (if you’re married, you’re probably good at this, and if you’re not, you’ll WANT to get good at this) you will also need to compromise. Your friend may occasionally have to join you at your favorite “singles spot” while you’ll have to make time to join her to see her daughter’s play.

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