What if we told you there is any easy way you can increase your happiness, health, and maybe even live longer that is totally free and accessible to everyone right now? You don’t need any special equipment. It doesn’t involve exercise, unless you want it to. You can achieve this incredible health boost any time you decide to. Sounds too good to be true, right? It isn’t.

The answer to a healthier you is as close as your nearest friend. Studies show that a mini-vacation, a walk in the park, or even just a conversation with your best-trusted friends can work wonders on the body. You don’t have to have a large group of friends. They key is to focus on quality solid friendships with people who bring out the best in you, and who you reciprocate true friendship with.

There have been dozens of studies that verify people with strong friendships tend to be happier and healthier. It’s all about reducing stress.

According to the Harvard Medical School, people who don’t have any friendships put themselves at a similar risk to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That’s how important friendships are to our mental and physical health.

“One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.”

Although dating, relationships, and family are certainly important too, it’s the friendships that really are most important when it comes to health. That’s probably because people who hang out with their friends are most at ease and less stressed. High-stress levels contribute to problems with coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. On the other hand, when we are around our friends, our bodies tend to produce stress-reducing hormones like oxytocin.

The quality of those friendships is vital. If you stay around people who make you feel bad about yourself, it’s bad for your health. Likewise, if you engage in unhealthy activities, like drinking or eating to excess, the health benefits will, of course, be nullified. Yet making time for your besties can work wonders. It’s a great excuse to schedule more of your time for your friends in your busy daily life. What’s more, that excuse only grows stronger the older we get.

“A large Swedish study of people ages 75 and over concluded that dementia risk was lowest in those with a variety of satisfying contacts with friends and relatives.”

If you are still skeptical, consider that psychologists have been able to predict how big a person’s social network is by measuring their tolerance to pain. Think about how amazing it is that simply spending time with friends can strengthen us to the point where we can handle whatever life throws at us with relative ease.

Sure, we all get busy with our day-to-day lives, trying to pay bills, keeping up with long hours at work, and taking care of our homes, our pets, and our families. Yet there are truly valuable rewards for taking the time to cultivate our friendships in person.

The health benefits are equal for the person who shows care and concern and the person who receives the attention.

You don’t need to spend much money. You just have to spend a little quality time with your “chosen family.” Are you starting to picture a road trip in your future? Depending on who you travel with, it could be the best thing you could possibly do for your health. Or, just take a walk, go for coffee, or see a movie. Science shows it’s just as important as a trip the gym or the doctor.

The best part is you can literally improve your friend’s health just by showing them you care.

See more below:

Featured images via Pixabay