How Can You Get Long-Term Benefits From Your Friendships?

Friends have a bigger impact on your health than you might think.

 Dimitri Otis/Getty Images 

Spending time with the people you love isn’t just enjoyable, it’s good for your health. According to The New York Times, your behavior and well-being, including anxiety and happiness levels, are impacted (strongly!) by those around you.

One way researchers are beginning to understand this concept is by examining blue zones, or areas of the planet where people have longer lifespans. In many of these areas, healthy relationships are extremely important.

With the oldest female life expectancy in the world, Okinawa, Japan is a prime example of a blue zone. In this area, people create moais, which are groups of five people who offer one another emotional, social, financial, and other kinds of support. Moais not only emphasize sharing and positivity, they also seem to improve health.

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow who studies blue zones, is looking to bring moais to the United States. “We have created moais that are now several years old, and they are still exerting a healthy influence on members’ lives,” Buettner told The New York Times.

In addition, Buettner’s team has made it easy for people to optimize their previously-formed friendships. They have created a quiz that determines which friends might have the most positive impact. “Friends can exert a measurable and ongoing influence on your health behaviors in a way that a diet never can,” Buettner says.

So, form your own moai. Next time you’re with friends, make an effort to encourage sincere conversation and engage in activities that you all enjoy. As exemplified in Okinawa, finding a support system won’t just benefit you in the short-term — it could transform your long-term health, too. 

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