The Power of Friendship: What a Difference a Year Makes

3 years ago

A year ago today, I woke up for the first time in my Milwaukee home. I was excited about our new chapter in life but also exhausted from the three-day drive across country and overwhelmed by the unpacking.

Mostly, I was terrified at having left behind a circle of friends that had taken more than a decade to create. My emotional stability was in question—so I guess things were actually pretty much the same as always but I worried about life without having dear friends close by.

I was right to be concerned. Only in the past decade has science begun to recognize what women have always known: strong, close friendships are our lifeline. Study after recent study has now shown that friendships are one of the most significant factors in our overall health and well-being. In fact, research has shown that friends are even more critical to our longevity than family.

The long-running Nurses’ Health Study found that when women diagnosed with breast cancer were without strong social connections, they had a much higher risk of dying. A 10-year study in Australia showed that those with many friends outlived those with few friends by 22 percent.

The conclusion is obvious: If you don’t have friends, you will die.

OK, that’s not really the conclusion. However, I do know that in the months following our move, the isolation I felt took a toll on my overall well-being. I had days in which I missed my female support group so much that I could hardly bare it.

Yet, as humans we adapt to our surroundings. It is what we have always done to survive. In an effort to survive, I put my introverted self out there, I accepted nearly every invitation that came my ways, and the results speak for themselves.

It wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed last night, after spending the evening with new friends, that I realized today was my one-year milestone. I can’t believe an entire year has already passed, but it also seems that my life in Denver is a distant memory.

My life there would no longer fit who I am today, but the friends I made there remain dear to my heart. They are with me always in spirit, and the beauty of adaptation is that by stepping out of my comfort zone, I have expanded my circle of friends.

My calendar this week includes two book club meetings, a fun run with a local running group I recently joined, coffee with a mom I met through my daughter’s school and an outing with my own mom, who I previously saw only a few times a year. To top it off, three Colorado friends will make a visit this weekend.

These new friendships aren’t yet as close as my older ones, but with each encounter they become stronger. Whatever comes next, I am blessed to have a social network of old friends and new to see me through. My health and well-being are truly in good hands. 

How have your friendships seen you through life’s changes?

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