By: Laura Boisson
In 2011 the United Nations General Assembly declared July 30 to be International Day of Friendship. It is a holiday that was already recognized and celebrated around the world (mostly in parts of Asia, and more specifically in India. However, International Day of Friendship in India is celebrated on the first Sunday in August; this year it is August 4. Originally, it was a holiday that the greeting card industry tried to establish in the 1920s, and while it did not become popular in the United States, countries around the world began the tradition. I will gladly take a day and turn it into nearly a week of celebrating my friends. I had to find out what specifically goes on during this holiday.
It turns out, when it comes to friendship; there are no set rules! Acknowledge, embrace, & celebrate your friends in your own unique way – why else do we keep those special people around?! The most consistent gift for Friendship Day, and probably the universal symbol of friendship for most millenials, seems to be the trusted friendship bracelet. You know the one I’m talking about; made from embroidery floss, weaved into different patterns, and depending on how thick you make it, they can take hours to finish.
As I read more about International Day of Friendship, I felt nostalgic. Spending my summers growing up at a local pool with friends. The smell of sunscreen and flashbacks of tying embroidery floss around one of my toes to anchor the bracelet while I weave for hours, watching the pattern come to fruition. I always wanted to make a very wide bracelet, and often started them; once you have more than 8-10 strings, however, it gets very chaotic. I give props to anyone who is able to finish such a large task, because keeping the strings in the correct color order and from getting tangled takes time and patience. Making these bracelets are always a great idea in theory, but that’s only because I forget how long they take to make. I’m stubborn, so after researching Friendship Day I ran out to Joann Fabrics and picked up a handful of embroidery floss.
Must make friendship bracelets.
There’s way more to all of this madness, however. Why is friendship so important to us humans? Why do we care if there is a holiday or not? Well, I dug deeper. We shouldn’t forget that humans are part of the animal kingdom, and we are very social animals. In fact, there have been studies to show that socialization helps to improve our psychological and physical health. Because of this, I think it’s fair to say that social connection is just as important as proper diet, exercise, and rest. It’s another factor in keeping balance in the human body. These same studies also shows that a lack of socialization is just as harmful to us, if not more, than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.
We hear people experts talking about these health concerns and ways to improve our health almost daily on the news. It would be nice if we heard more health professionals speak on the impact of creating human connection, right? Let’s look at the positive aspects of friendship. It’s been shown that establishing a human connection increases our chances of longevity by fifty percent. Likewise, our immune system is strengthened when we have others we can confide in and trust. The same genes in the human body that code for our immune function are actually impacted by socializing. So influential, actually, that recovery from disease has been seen to increase as a result of human connections.
It’s no surprise that as our immune function and longevity increases, the rate of anxiety and depression decreases. This leads to higher self esteem, plus increased ability to trust and cooperate with one another. I don’t want to use the word “trend,” but there is a growing interest in humans practicing self love, and becoming more intuned with their internal health. This is an important part of socializing, because we need to be comfortable and confident with ourselves before we can be vulnerable with others, and allow them into our lives. A leading voice in human connection and this wave of self-realization, is Brene Brown. I wanted to watch her Netflix special for some time now, and it wasn’t until I listened to her episode of Under the Skin podcast with Russell Brand, that I definitely knew I wanted to watch it. She has spent a large chunk of her career studying the human connection.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” – Brene Brown (interview with Emma Seppala, link below)
By establishing deep friendships and social connections, we create a positive feedback loop, which improves many aspects of our health. In 1985, a study taken in the United States showed that on average, Americans had three close friends that they felt they could trust and confide in. That number decreased in 2004 to only one. In other words, twenty-five percent of Americans do not feel like they have any one person they can turn to for comfort or trust. It’s 2019, however, so we can turn this around!
If you’re looking for ways to show appreciation for those around you, I have a couple of ideas. First, remember it’s never too late to build up a current relationship into a closer and deeper friendship. Likewise, it’s never too late to make new friends! There are a number of ways to meet new people these days, including meet-up groups, sewing circles, online dating apps (Bumble has a Bumble BFF feature for women to meet other women to create friendships). We have options everywhere. The best chances to make friends are generally in the realm of your current interests. The people are there – now go find them!
With that said, you could go the traditional route of making friendship bracelets. Honestly, I plan on mailing out the ones I’ve been making while writing to some of my closest friends, because we all live in different cities now. It’s a nice little reminder that I still love them. With the popularity of taking care of ourselves emotionally, mentally, and physically, the most effective way to do so is to look out for each other’s health as well. Pay attention to each other’s health concerns, dietary habits, and they may just do the same for you. That’s why we get gym buddies, right? We need to hold each other and ourselves accountable for our health goals. That’s why I think the perfect gift for International Day of Friendship is buying a loved one a 5 Strands testing kit. We can help identify any food and environmental intolerances that someone you care about may be struggling with. We offer a variety of options, for people, as well as for pets, so if your crazy cat lady friend does not need one – maybe her cat does!
Take the time this week to tell those close to you how much you care about them. It’ll feel good for you and for them.