Have lots of friends to be healthy

Last Thursday, I felt pretty stuffy and I was sure I was getting a cold.
My daughter, on the other hand, insisted it was only an allergy. After all, she said, “It’s the height of the ragweed season.”
But by Friday morning, there was no doubt. I had a doozy of a cold! Although statistically a person can expect to get two-three colds per year, it’s been years since I have had a full-blown one.
First, I checked the Internet for alternative remedies to find out what would help. As usual, I got some ideas, one of which was elderberry juice—a natural source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antihistamines.
That was just what I needed. The dose was one teaspoon of elderberry concentrate, which made a delicious drink when combined with orange juice.
With my usual chicken broth, lots of fluids, and plenty of rest, I was on the way to recovery.
When searching the Internet, I found two other very interesting articles about colds—one a Ladies’ Home Journal article entitled “Gotta Have Friends” and another called “Feed Friendships, Starve Colds” by David Sobel, M.D., of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge.
In “Gotta Have Friends,” Sara Eckel says friends help us through our darkest moments, applaud us during our greatest triumphs, and provide lots of light and laughter during the times between.
But more importantly, they actually make us healthier.
She quotes “The Friendship Crisis” by Marla Paul: “Friendships protect us against depression. They boost our immune system, enhance our memory.”
And she went on to say, “People with friends get fewer colds.”
It turns out that research corroborates her statement. Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, directed a study to identify the psychological stresses that can lead to a cold.
A report of the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that people who relate closely to their families, friends, and community were less likely to catch a cold.
So, to increase your chances of staying healthy, develop lots of social connections.
But even more interesting is what Sobel reports in “Feed Friendships, Starve Colds.” He says the common wisdom is to avoid contact with people and thus limit your exposure to sniffling, sneezing, and coughing.
Yet instead, studies not only show that people who have friends are less susceptible to colds, but by relating to lots of different people they will have even more protection.
“The more diverse your set of social relationships—friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbours, fellow members of religious and community organizations—the less likely you are to catch a cold.”
People who had contact with six or more types of relationships at least once every two weeks had one-fourth the risk of becoming sick when compared with those who had only one-three types of relationships.
More important than the total number of people contacted was the diversity of the contacts.
So as you enter the “cold” season, remember how important your friends are. And have a goal to contact at least six people from different social networks in the next two weeks.
They may be your best protection from the common cold.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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