Healthy Friendships

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The game was simple but, as I could tell, incredibly fun.

My dog, Rocky, had just been tagged and now was chasing his German shepherd friend, Nikki, around the backyard. Rocky’s doghouse stood sentry at the back of my house and was clearly a tag-free zone, because Nikki dashed into the house while Rocky skidded to a halt outside, barking.

Both dogs could fit comfortably inside, but clearly the rules stated no entry to the pursuer. So he stood waiting while he barked his excitement and frustration. Nikki bided her time, and then with a huge leap, exploded out of the entrance while Rocky followed rapidly behind but really no match against her long-legged strides.

That was no matter. Nikki would stop to allow Rocky to catch up and even allow him to tag her so she could then have the fun of giving chase. The two would romp, or nap or patrol the perimeter of the fence all day, always enjoying each other’s company. At times, one would come up to nuzzle the other’s mouth to say, “Hey, what’s going on?”

We humans are no different. We need friends to play and laugh and connect with in that special bond. Not just for emotional health, but for our physical health, as well.

Friendship in whatever form it chooses to manifest is part of the ultimate life force that binds this world together. It is friends that instill in us strength to conquer all odds or bring sunshine to a faded day. And it is friends that allow our bodies to relax and feel a sense of belonging.

Studies show that people in strong social relationships generally have more positive mental, emotional and physical health. So my body’s health actually benefits from time spent yacking with my best friend at our favorite coffee shop. In that moment, my stress levels are on their way down as I relate my latest obstacles and attitudes to my friend whose radar syncs exactly with mine in complete understanding. My immune system is relieved from the stress hormone cortisol that has been streaming through my body earlier. I feel lighter and my world once again shines.

Research shows that friendships not only boost our immune system, but help us heal from sickness, lower our blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and keep us on the road to a longer life span. Even though my friend’s ear might have gotten a slight hammering during my long rant, but because of her friendship my body hummed happily after at a peaceful rate, blood pressure down and a smile up on my face. Nothing like good friends to help us relax and boost the belief everything’s going to be all right.

Keep your friends close and sacred to your heart. Be sure to schedule time with them and not let them drop through the cracks of obligations we all tour through in life. Researchers indicate good friends offer a different kind of support than spouses, siblings, parents or children. It is a different level of understanding and communication established between good friends that leads to a positive affect on our health, wellness and attitude.

A friendship brings that cool, clean feeling of entrainment when you are around a compadre that sings the same songs you do but in a different key and isn’t connected to you with obligations or duties in any way other than a pure and mutual link of being friends.

Friendships keep our hearts from racing into high anxiety and make us breath deeply in laughter with the perfectly timed humorous comment. Laughing produces endorphins that bring on the good and lay waste to the bad.

Be aware friendships come in all shapes and sizes, some two-legged, some four, but in whatever way a friendship is forged, it lightens up the world and let’s us live longer in happiness.

As for my dog and his friend Nikki, they had to part ways a long time ago. And for a while I would watch as each new doggie friend Rocky encountered would get the playful body slam Nikki and he created to greet each other. This “secret handshake” was not well received, the dogs unaware his early aspect of friendship was bonded this way and he meant no harm. It was only Nikki that could romp that way, a bond no other dog could interpret.

And it is so true with all our friends who might be the only ones who understand our little nuances and like them and want to be around them. Friends we meet in our travels through life are uniquely special and through their power of friendship we find ourselves happy, healthy and alive.

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