This week’s OlderBeast Web Pick is a great Boston Globe article on male friendships. It talks about how easy it is for guys to let true friendships drift away as they get wrapped up in work and family. It then examines the (actually, shocking) impact spending time with friends (or not) has on our physical health and longevity.
A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. –William Shakespeare
I’ll let the article speak for itself on this friendship topic. But first, let’s quickly look at the broader context of how non-physical aspects of “wellness” (like relationships) have a direct impact on our health.
CONTEXT: NON-PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF WELLNESS
Many fitness and nutrition topics are easy and even intuitive to understand, once you prioritize learning about them.
Cardio workouts have a direct cause/effect relationship with heart health. Avoiding refined sugars and eating enough fiber directly, positively impacts blood sugar levels and diabetes risks. Etc.
But when you zoom out beyond fitness/nutrition to include “wellness” in the picture, it encompasses many things whose effect on health and longevity is less obvious.
The “Wheel of Life” graphic below is one way to envision the full range of physical and non-physical aspects of your life.
The Wheel of Life
Feeling satisfied with each aspect of your life, and having them feel in balance, leads to a more holistic wellness than exercise and nutrition alone can ever bring. And just like running or eating fiber, though less visibly, these things impact your physical self.
You can explore this more via this OlderBeast article that more-deeply introduces the idea of wellness, and these two which look at examples of wellness-enhancing activities (being in nature and controlled breathing).
The key takeaway from all this?
Your satisfaction with each section of life’s wheel doesn’t happen “to” you. It’s something you can consciously and actively focus on and improve, man.
Just like fitness and nutrition, you can improve wellness by some combo of doing things, not doing things, and reorienting how you think about certain things. Which brings us back to the topic of friendships.
male FRIENDSHIP AS A KEY PART OF guys’ WELLNESS
Among segments in the wheel-of-life, psychologists researching happiness have particularly zeroed in on the importance of relationships.
This poses both risk and opportunity for guys entering the OlderBeast phase.
It’s a risk because it’s so easy to let friendships drift way during your 30s and early 40s, when many of us are mid-career and have young kids in the house. You may be “friendly” with a great many people…but week to week or even month to month, how often do you spend time with true friends?
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ―C.S. Lewis
On the other hand, guys entering the OlderBeast phase have a fantastic opportunity to take inventory of things and make adjustments as they begin life’s longest chapter. Often, your life and focus start to re-broaden after the narrower, intense years you’ve just come through.
This is a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones.
With that as context, friends, I think you’ll benefit from this Boston Globe article on the importance of male friendship: “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.”
Some of you might read this, look at the Globe article, and think: “This isn’t me – I’ve kept up active friendships.” If so, I admire that! For you, at least, awareness of this topic might help get easier “permission” for the next guys’ weekend trip.
But if this pattern and its health/longevity stakes apply to you, brother, then please think hard about taking action.
“He’d headed west ’cause he felt that a change would do him good. See some old friends, good for the soul.” (Bob Seger, Hollywood Nights—click to listen)
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