Good Friends Are Good for Your Health
Every single day, Sr. Master Janelle Gleisner talks to good friends she’s made in ATA. Now that she is a member of the ATA headquarters staff, she has the luxury of talking to even more. But it’s not just about doing her job. She says the personal relationships she’s developed in her over 28 years in martial arts have created a global network of colleagues that has led to true camaraderie and friendship that reaches numbers far too great to count.
“I think that’s one of the strongest benefits of ATA,” says Gleisner who is the Vice President of Licensing and Sales for ATA’s international headquarters. Whether Gleisner knows it or not, that benefit of ATA is also a benefit to her health! It turns out that friendships are not only good for emotional well-being, but also for physical health. Studies show that friendship can help keep your brain healthy, reduce anxiety and stress, and boost your immune system.
Looking for the fountain of youth? A study published by Personal Relationships in 2017, surveyed more than 280,000 people across nearly 100 countries about their nearest and dearest, along with their happiness and health, and found that people who placed more importance on friendship and family tended to say they were happier, more satisfied and healthier than those who didn’t. And when it comes to the buddy system, it’s better to have a few great friends than a ton of mediocre ones.
Spending time with close friends, especially when sharing a passion such as with ATA, can even have physical effects. The journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported an article in 2015 that showed groups of people who had strong social connections had lower blood pressure and lower body mass index.
What’s more, those close friendships can support you in your Taekwondo training. “It helps motivate you for the next testing or tournament,” Gleisner says. “You have a group of people that you only see at ATA events, but it’s great because you come back to the next event and feel like you were just with them yesterday—socializing and having fun.”
For Sr. Master Sean Smith, time with ATA friends goes well beyond competition and the classroom—for him it went all the way to the altar! Smith’s been a groomsman for ATA friend wedding and even had a Songahm buddy serve as best man in his own wedding. He even met his wife through Taekwondo, traveling the tournament circuit.
“Regardless of when you start training, whether you’re a kid or an adult, the people you see at tournaments are going to be people who will follow you through your training all of your life.” Smith says, “I tell my students to make sure they meet someone their rank, especially at Worlds or Nationals, so that you have a friend in this with you.” Next time there’s a buddy event in your school, think hard about inviting someone to join you on this journey. Do your health a favor and kick start your friendships!
So, what are some specific ways science has shown that friendships can help your health? Here are a few:
- They help you live longer and enjoy your time more.
- Keep your mind sharp.
- Gain confidence and learn valuable social skills.
- Boost your immune system.
- Challenge you to improve and try new things.
- Lower stress levels and lessen depression.
- Get through tough times.
- Laugh, which has been linked to blood vessel functioning.
- Adopt healthy behaviors. (A study by Current Opinion of Psychiatry showed that people who have a good network of family and friends tend to have healthier lifestyles, including eating more fruits and veggies, and even quit smoking.)
So how can you be better friend? Here are some suggestions!
- Celebrate! Compliment your friends when they do good things or achieve their goals. People want to be around people who make them feel good.
- Try New Things. Invite your friend to Taekwondo! It’s great to have a buddy in class. Inversely, try something your friend has been asking you to do. It will create mutual respect and a stronger bond.
- Stay in Touch. Yes, you can send “HBD” when Facebook reminds you of a friend’s birthday. But don’t lose sight of the power of a phone call or a card. Keep connections personal.
- Don’t Keep Score. You’re bound to compete against your buddies in ATA, but focus on the friendship—not the medal count.
- Live Your Oath. The Songahm Spirit encourages us to use courtesy, loyalty and respect in our friendships. Show these to your pals and expect the same in return.
Author: Anna Belfort