On Walkabout to See What's Out There

Tend and Befriend

By: BriarCraft, 12:08 AM GMT on March 29, 2012

As regular visitors here know, I had total hip replacement surgery on March 15th. I'm doing fine and looking forward to being able to take walks again and to tend my garden without pain. Someday. But recovery from hip replacement takes time. Bones and tendons and muscles have to heal before I can bend and tote and stretch like I want. That's okay, because I can feel myself healing and getting stronger every day.

In the past month, I have learned -- or more accurately -- relearned that there is strength in friendship and value in humor. I was reminded that "cheerfulness and positive attitude are good medicine for a quicker recovery". While waiting for my surgery a nurse revealed that some people become so nervous and overwrought before surgery that they have to be sent home to come back already tranquilized another day. Anyone who denies feeling nervous before surgery is lying or drugged. But to feel so overwhelmed with nerves as to be sent home... How sad, I thought. Surely if such people had close family or friends or faith, they wouldn't feel so overwhelmed. And how lucky I am to have close family and a far-flung support network of friends in WUville.

There are plenty of essays and books on the subjects of friendship and humor and positive attitude. Below are a couple short essays that might be of interest to you.

The Healing Power of Friendship
By Lila Havens, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth.com

People who have strong social ties live longer and recover from illness faster than those who don't. Maybe friends are the best medicine.

Bob is divorced and lives by himself. He's also a loner. After a stressful day at work, he does what he usually does. He heads home, zaps a frozen dinner and kicks back in his recliner to watch TV.

Like Bob, Kiesha is divorced and lives alone. But when she has had a bad day at work, she doesn't go home to an empty house. Instead, she asks a friend to meet her at a neighborhood bistro. They have a glass of wine, talk about their lives and share a few laughs.

Both Bob and Kiesha found ways to relax after a trying day, but Bob's way of dealing with stress is riskier than Kiesha's. People who get a little help from their friends live longer and healthier lives than those who isolate themselves.

Health and social ties
A person who has friends has a better chance of staying healthy than someone who has no support system. Friendship seems to cut the risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol. A person with strong social bonds who does get sick has a better chance of surviving a serious illness.

Why? It may be that people with solid support systems have stronger immune systems. Stress is known to wreak havoc on the body. Friendship may help defuse the effects of stress. It may also be partly because people with strong support systems tend to take better care of themselves. Friends may encourage each other to change unhealthy habits. They also help each other during illnesses and other difficult times.

Friendship confers both physical and mental health benefits. People with strong friendships tend to suffer less from depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. Older adults are less likely to develop dementia when they have satisfying relationships.

Recent research seems to show that friendship may help us live longer. In fact, friendship seems to offer greater health benefits than having a spouse or family.
*One study of older adults in Australia found that those who had lots of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the 10 years of the study than people who had just a few friends.
*A large study of nurses with breast cancer found that those who didn't have close friends had four times the risk of dying from the disease as women who had a large circle of friends.

Strong evidence of the power of emotional attachment is a condition known as non-organic failure to thrive. It occurs in babies who are emotionally neglected - their physical needs may be taken care of, but they are not held, cuddled or spoken to. These babies don't grow properly, and they become listless, depressed and prone to illness. Many of them die before they are toddlers. The ones who survive develop long-term learning and behavior problems.

"Tend and befriend"
In times of severe stress, men typically have a "fight or flight" reaction. The body revs up, preparing either to do battle or to flee quickly. Women are more likely to seek emotional support in the face of danger. Researchers coined the term "tend and befriend" to describe this reaction.

This urge to create, maintain and rely on relationships during times of stress may explain why women outlive men. Since friendship seems to reduce disease risk and increase longevity, a conscious effort to "tend and befriend" might be the key to a longer, healthier life.


The Healing Power of Humor
By Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP

The Ojibway tribe recognized it. The Old Testament even references the healing properties of humor: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Although our ancestors couldn’t explain it scientifically, they knew intuitively that laughter was good for the body as well as the soul.

More recently Norman Cousins, in his book “Anatomy of an Illness,” describes how he cured himself of a debilitating disease through the use of humor. He reportedly watched old Marx Brothers movies and laughed uncontrollably. He believes his own laughter cured his disease. He subsequently lived a long and healthy life — well into his 80s!

Today we have a better understanding of how laughter affects human physiology. It:
*Reduces pain. Our bodies produce pain-killing hormones called endorphins in response to laughter.
*Strengthens immune function. A good belly laugh increases production of T-cells, interferon and immune proteins called globulins.
*Decreases stress. When under stress, we produce a hormone called cortisol. Laughter significantly lowers cortisol levels and returns the body to a more relaxed state.

The other good news is that humor has a positive impact on intellectual and emotional functioning. It:
*Helps put life’s trials and tribulations into healthy perspective by making them seem smaller.
*Aids us in overcoming fear.
*Allows us to take ourselves less seriously.
*Triggers our creativity.

As you can see, humor can be the curative our ancestors professed it to be. But how can you incorporate more laughter into your life, when you are already overwhelmed by daily demands? Won’t humor be just one more thing to add to your “to do” list?

Fortunately there are ways to bring levity into your life without adding extra pressure. Find one of the following methods that works for you:
-“Humor up” your work environment. Bring kids’ toys to work and keep them within reach. When you are stressed, take out a toy and play. That irate customer on the phone will have no idea that you are keeping your cool by playing with a Slinky. -Place funny pictures of friends and loved ones around your office, including ones of you when you were a ridiculous-looking kid.
-Create a humor file. Fill it with funny cartoons, sayings and jokes, as you run across them. When things are looking particularly grim, refer to your file. You’ll get a good laugh and be able to put things back in perspective in no time.
-Create sitcom situations. When you find yourself in a nerve-wracking situation (such as locking your keys in the car), think of how Groucho or Lucy would handle it.
-For recreation, do some of the things you did as a kid. Go to the zoo, an amusement park, bowling or swinging — the sky’s the limit! You’ll find that these activities completely take you away from all of that “heavy” stuff. And the escape will do wonders for your attitude.
-Exaggerate a stressful situation. Take your situation and make it even bigger than it is. You might think this will cause more stress; however, blowing the problem up will allow you to see the absurdity of it, and afford you a great belly laugh.

You have a choice: You can continue to be a “grown-up,” and let all of the frustrations and disappointments in life weigh you down, or you can introduce levity into even the toughest circumstances. If you “let a smile be your umbrella,” you are likely to enjoy each day to its fullest and spend less time at the doctor’s office.

The latest in orthopedic surgery

So while I watch my garden become overgrown with weeds, I'll pay special attention to the flowers that struggle through and ignore the rest for now. And I'll get my gardening fix on others' blogs and vicariously enjoy their flowers and veggies.

I won't be planting seeds this spring. Instead, I'll tend the friendship garden that thrives here in WUville. And since I'm not allowed to bend more than 90 degrees at the hip, maybe you wouldn't mind pulling just that one weed over there...?

It's Springtime Somewhere

By: BriarCraft, 10:37 PM GMT on March 06, 2012

In recent months, we've talked about foul weather fun and taking the other road. This month, spring is starting to work its way northward and has already arrived in the southern part of the country. My activities this month have nothing to do with spring. I'll be having hip replacement surgery on March 15 and then I'll be out of action, recuperating and doing my rehab exercises. I won't be around WUville very much and when I am, I probably won't be looking for anything too serious.

Instead, I invite WUfriends and lurkers to post photos and observations of spring, cute or funny or interesting things you run across during your internet surfing expeditions, or whatever happens to be on your mind. I could simply shut down my blog, but instead, I'd rather leave it open if somewhat neglected. I'll stop by when I'm able and enjoy whatever you have left here, and I'll contribute what I can. I should be back to my usual WUville activities in early April.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.