The Friends Effect: It’s Saving Your Life

In your professional life, you strive to be the absolute best. You’re a natural leader, you innovate constantly and you have a quantifiable track record for generating high-value results. In your world, a 40-hour workweek is a myth, but somehow, sunrise-to-sunset will always fly by and you’ll be smiling the whole time. Some people call you a workaholic, but you prefer the term “passionate”.

Hey hustler, when was the last time you called your best friend?

“Later” is a less than ideal answer. Beyond money and professional success, your friends and family are invaluable assets that need attention and nurturing to remain strong. In your toughest moments, they’ll be your biggest fans. In your happiest moments, they’ll be the people who share your joy.

 

Eventually, they’ll be the people who will save your life. Here are the main reasons why:

1. Your friends are invaluable to your health

Despite your professional success and talents, you’re nothing without your health. No matter how busy life gets, you need to maintain your physical and mental well-being. While a fast-paced life is less than accommodating to relaxation, your friendships will keep you on track (sometimes subconsciously). Consider the following studies.

  • In 2009, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found, among female adult patients of an urban free medical clinic, that there is a correlation between cardiovascular health and perceived social support.
  • A UCLA study cites another study in which researchers found that people with the most friends over a 9-year period cut their mortality rate by more than 60%.
  • A 2008 Harvard study suggests that friends promote brain health for aging adults.
  • A longitudinal Australian study discovered, among older adults, people with a large circle of friends are less likely to die than people with fewer friends.
  • In a 6-year study of 736 Swedish men, researchers found a relationship between strong social networks and longer life expectancy.

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No matter how busy things get at work, make sure that your social network remains strong. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your friends too. Eat together. Exercise together. Take breaks together. It’ll do your body good.

2. Your friends make life happier, so keep them as close as you can

Remember your childhood friend who made you laugh more than anyone else you’ve ever met? How about your college roommates who kept you motivated and smiling (and sometimes dancing) through your grueling all-nighters? And your grad school buddy who cracked jokes with you so that you could power through the most boring lecture ever? The laughter that you enjoyed with these people was so much more fulfilling than even the funniest moments that you experience at work.

What happened?

On the job, your top goal is to provide utility and value. Any jokes or fun moments that happen are secondary. Therefore, it’s important to create social situations where the fun stuff is #1 and the work is secondary. It’s your friendships that keep this balance strong.

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Over the last five years, it’s likely that the geography of your friend circles has changed dramatically. Keep each other close by writing letters, video chatting, talking on the phone during commutes and scheduling times to see each other as often as you can.

Find opportunities to integrate the people nearby with your daily routine too. Take a class together. Take walks together. With your busy life, planning and prioritizing will be essential.

3. Your friends want to help you succeed professionally

No matter what your field or specialty is, robust networks are invaluable for building professional success. Chances are that your career path is very different from what your friends have pursued. However, you never know how industries will evolve, how your career path will change or how your friends’ professional lives will grow.

Your friends also have other friends who might be great professional contacts for you. This is especially powerful during a time of need when you feel like you’re just circling rock bottom (like when you’re unemployed).

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Beyond jobs, careers, and what you’re doing, your friends can help you learn about something new and different. Professional networks shouldn’t be narrow and limited to your field, and it’s your friends who keep them diverse.

4. Think quality, not quantity

Before venturing out to meet hoards of new people, think about the friends who are already so important in your life. When was the last time you had a long conversation or meaningful moment with your college friends? Moving forward, keep an open mind because you never know who you’ll meet and when you’ll click. Friendship is truly something beyond borders, but it’s also very much an investment – one that’s way more important than money.

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