The Power of Friendship: What a Difference a Year Makes Bookmark and Share

The Power of Friendship: What a Difference a Year Makes

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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  1. Rebecca

    Rebecca on 07/26/2014 7:26 p.m. #

    Yes indeed, Heidi, my friends have seen me through the good, the bad, and the uncertain. And they've given me hope. When I could not speak, they patiently let me try to talk. They've listened. They've always been there when I needed them. All I needed to do was reach out. I'm really lucky, too, because my mom is one of my best friends. I'm so very grateful for the love of friends, and family. They see in me what I don't see in myself. And they give me love and strength and courage. You are one of those friends, Heidi. Thank you, gentle, inspiring friend. :)

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