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We're Hard-Wired For Friendship: Carlin Flora
Social Change | July 05, 2013

We're Hard-Wired For Friendship: Carlin Flora

"If perpetuating our own genes is life's primary objective," Carlin Flora asks in Psychology Today, "why do we develop such intense non-sexual interest in people who are not related to us?" The answer, the Friendfluence author says, is that the urge to make friends is hard-wired into our DNA. From an evolutionary perspective, making friends was about more than just having a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with. Friendships were actually crucial to our survival. Women would often leave their families and join their husband's tribe, Flora explains, which made forming ties with non-relatives crucial. Without these friendships, women would often be left without the help needed to raise their children successfully. Men, on the other hand, relied on friendships to "form alliances and obtain power and protection within the tribal hierarchy," Flora adds.

Today, friendships play just as important of a role in our development. They make us smarter, increase our pain threshold, and can even help us to live longer. Simply being in the company of a friend has been shown to lower blood pressure. Further, being friends with a healthy and positive group of people can help you to lose weight and nix bad habits because you feel driven to emulate the behaviors of those around you. Want to up your intellectual capacity and decrease your chances of developing dementia? Conversing with close friends allows you to share insights freely until you eventually stumble upon a breakthrough, Flora says. And, the mental stimulation helps you ward off mental depreciation later in life. Finally, "according to a meta-study, people with a solid group of friends are 50 percent more likely to survive at any given time than those without one," Flora writes.

So, it's clear that having great friends is beneficial to your health. In fact, as Flora revealed in her book, "having few social ties is an equivalent mortality risk to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even riskier than being obese or not exercising!" Imagine going to the doctor and being given a prescription to spend more time with friends! The medical benefits of friendship certainly make this idea plausible. Flora's insight into the way friends shape our lives is causing quite a stir in classrooms and workplaces alike. She shows us how to harness the power of friendship in her keynotes, enlightening audiences to the ways connections with others can help us lead happier, healthier, and more productive lives.
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