Health nuts know all the rules. Granted, I’m the kind of health nut that primarily knows what rules she is currently breaking, but there’s one area of wellness I’ve come to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older. My commitment to it matches the degree of its hyperbolic benefits: Supports brain health! Promotes recovery! Prevents depression! Slows Aging! Extends lifespan! Sleep, exercise, vegetables, and meditation can claim a lot of these merits, but they’re also good habits that are easy to fall into and out of—possibly because they, unlike my most consistent habit, don’t text me to remind me to practice them.
I’m talking about friendship, superfood for the soul, as healthy as a kale, quinoa, and pomegranate salad, but 100% fad-free.
I’m a reformed call-screener, maybe-I’ll-comer, and no-show-er. When I was younger, social situations of almost every order filled me with anxious dread before, during, and afterward. As often as not, I let the call go to voicemail, pretended a conflict, or made myself so frazzled in the course of good-faith efforts to actually show up that I sabotaged myself out of the ability to do it. It was as though I was putting relationships off for a later date, when I presumed I would be the person I thought the situation really called for. It felt bad for everyone, and it wasn’t good for me.
As I’ve grown more comfortable with myself over time, I’ve gotten good at recognizing other people I’m comfortable around—people who embrace, tickle, and push me in that magic measure that keeps me square with myself and the world. I treasure these people, and I tell them so frankly and often, in person or on the phone, which I answer when they call. I work at my friendships—those with my friends, my family, and my spouse. When my companions bid, I turn toward them. When my first bid doesn’t get a response, I try another. The act of nurturing relationships in which I feel like I actually am what the situation calls for emboldens me to enter situations where I realize I might not be. I pick up the phone when friendship is on the line, so when other demands come calling, my first reflex is to answer, not avoid, which brings me into new situations where I find am needed and leads me to new people to treasure. It’s a virtuous cycle—and more fun than any other health kick.