In this episode of Bulletproof Radio, my guest is Lydia Denworth, author of “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.” Our discussion explores how friendship influences the human experience and contributes to our health, especially in this time of social distancing. In fact, friendship is as important as food and fitness.
Throughout human history, family and romantic relationships have gotten all the attention. Friendships weren’t even considered essential. That’s all changing now as scientific study digs into the biological, psychological, and emotional effects of friendship. Scientists can now define and measure it. And they are finding that friendship quality matters much more than quantity–sorry, not sorry, social media.
“The biological part of it is that we now understand that friendship is as important for your health as diet and exercise,” Lydia says.
“And it gets under your skin as scientists say. It really affects your health on all kinds of levels: your immune system, your stress, your cardiovascular system, your mental health and cognitive health,” Lydia says. “And the fact that it does that–that a relationship that exists outside the body entirely can get in and change how your health works–seems to me a sign that this is something that is really critical and that is deserving a far more respect and attention than we tend to give it.”
Lydia is an acclaimed science journalist and contributing editor at Scientific American where she covers the brain and psychology. She’s visited brain imaging labs and baboon troops in Kenya and written about everything from Alzheimer’s to zebrafish. She’s been in a unique position to see the evolving science on friendship in the animal and human world.
“We now understand that there are real evolutionary advantages to being good at making and maintaining friends,” Lydia says.
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Follow Along with the Transcript
Book: Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond
- Did you think you’d be writing a book about friendship? 2:23
- Friendship is as important as food and exercise. – 5:45
- There are all kinds of different ways to do friendship and to be social. – 8:05
- There are three minimum requirements for a friendship. – 10:41
- What’s the best way for people to make new friends during the pandemic? – 14:42
- There is this biology and evolution to friendship is showing us that the really quality relationships are the ones that really matter. – 18:23
- The two dishwasher hack – 20:10
- You could actually tell just by looking at the results of the brain processing, who was closest to who- 21:57
- Positive relationships might make us feel good and negative relationships, truly negative relationships are toxic, but what’s super interesting is this new work on ambivalent relationships. – 27:01
- I have a playbook you can download on my website that is kind of applying the science of friendship. – 30:44
- In addition to your daily nutrition, food plan, your exercise plan, your meditation plan, you’ve got have a friend plan. – 33:58
- The similarities in the way men and women approach friendship far outweigh the differences. 38:33
- Young parents don’t fully appreciate how much their kids’ social lives are going to determine their own social lives. – 43:16
- A good phone conversation seems to make people feel more connected than a Zoom. – 48:06
- Three pieces of advice for people listening about how to improve their friendships. – 50:47
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