Hey kids! Want to live longer, have a healthier body and mind, have a better outlook on life, and enjoy an enormous surge in endorphins, serotonins, and even, boost your immune system? Get yourself a girlfriend! Yes, that is right! Sisterhood can increase all of the above! That’s not just wishful thinking, that is research from Dr. David Spiegel (co-chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University Medical Center).
A helping hand, or two
Dr. Spiegel studied the effect of emotional, mental, social, spiritual and behavior factors on health. The study was targeting women with breast cancer, one of life’s ultimate stressors. When diagnosed with breast cancer most women feel like they have just been hit in the face by a fire hydrant. Emotions, rational, consequences, prognosis, I mean…really, your life races before your eyes in a slow motion cloud of unrelenting scenes of possible outcomes – most of them not good ones. There is no computer generated movie that can duplicate the stuff that fills up the mind when it comes to facing a life threatening disease like cancer. But one of the best things you can do is have a friend to help you face the fire hydrant!
Dealing with stress can wear down the body’s ability to fight disease. That means your immune system, endocrine, and nervous systems are compromised by stress! How do you relieve stress? Dr. Spiegel says, “Psychosocial support and stress management to augment medical treatment has been shown to improve cancer outcome and quality of life.” Translation: Getting together with friends and family while you are undergoing treatment and after can make your outlook better, increase your immune system to fight the cancer and create a more positive outcome.
Facing life’s realities with the support of friends, social communities, or a loving spouse, will help you cope and help diminish the feelings of depression and detoxify the fear. So expressing emotions with friends and family, and clarifying problems brought on by having cancer can help you to cultivate better relationships and share the feelings of crisis with everyone in your inner circle. It spreads the weight of the diagnosis and everyone does a little lifting. Much better than denial!
But guess what? You don’t have to have cancer to reap the benefits of this study! You just have to have friends, someone to talk to when you feel down. Spiegel reveals in this landmark study that found women with advance metastatic breast cancer who are involved in support groups, not only had less anxiety, depression and pain, but survived an average of 18 months longer. His conclusion was psychosocial interventions improve not just the quality of life but the quantity of life too.
So diminish your stress, be happier, and prolong your life! Get some friends!