Understanding the power of friendship to stimulate the happy hormones can be the foundation for a life of laughter and joy for the single person who desires a partner, but wants to have a full and joyful life in the meantime.
Thank you for being a friend.
Travel down the road and back again.
Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.
And if you threw a party, invited everyone you knew.
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
and the card attached would say,
thank you for being a friend.
Friendship Triggers the Happy Hormone
Many of us would recognize those lyrics from the theme song of one of the most iconic comedies in television history, the Golden Girls.
The original episodes aired from September 14, 1985 – May 9, 1992. Yet, to this very day, you can find reruns airing probably every day of the week. And let’s admit it, it was inappropriate at times for certain, but was ridiculously funny.
Who would have thought that a show about four middle aged women living together in one home would become of a hit of epic proportions?
Why was it such a hit?
At it’s core, Golden Girls was a show about friendship and love that developed between four strangers with vastly different personalities that made a connection.
What made it and still makes it resonate with an audience that spans demographics?
One reason was its willingness to address controversial or ignored topics about women, aging, sexuality and even race.
I think the main reason was that it showed that happiness, fun, and a full life can be enjoyed by those who are single.
Of course, they didn’t have some of the moral boundaries that Christians adhere to. Nevertheless, their lives were about much more than that. And they loved their lives and each other.
Friendship, real friendship, can consistently activate the happy hormones as well.
Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands across your body. They travel through the bloodstream, acting as messengers and playing a part in many bodily processes.
One of these important functions is helping to regulate your mood.
Certain hormones are known to help promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure.
The main 4 four hormones that have been dubbed the “happy hormones” are:
Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, Endorphins
Science On the Happy Hormones
Listen to this information from a neuroscientist on this topic of friendship in relation to the release of happy hormones.
Friendship Better Than Marriage in Triggering Happy Hormones?
Loneliness has been shown to be more detrimental to our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. However, since 1985 Americans who report NOT having a close friend has tripled.
Friendships are not just fun or a way to pass the time until you find a spouse. Friendships can eliminate persistent loneliness, increase happiness, and improve health.
I have made the case for the importance and necessity of friendships in the life of a single person.
But what kinds of friendships do we need to maximize the benefits of this relationship?
Critical Relationships to Trigger Happy Hormones
I think there are three kinds of platonic relationships that we should actively develop that will promote happiness.
Different activities trigger different hormones to increase, and different friendships/relationships tap into those activities. When we have a well-rounded friendship roster, we get the most out of the happy hormones available.
Mentors Stimulate The Hormone Dopamine
No matter how old we get, there is always someone older, who has experienced more or at least different things and can give you wisdom and insight that you are less likely to receive from a peer.
When we learn new things, we release dopamine which gives us that sense of euphoria or happiness that often spurs us to learn more new things and apply that knowledge keeping us in a more sustained happiness loop.
Older friends or mentors that can pour into us and give us the value of their experience, is not only a practical benefit for us, but also an emotional benefit.
We can enjoy the general advantages of a positive interpersonal relationship and then add to that the gift of growing and learning from the investment of time and teaching from someone that you admire and trust.
Spiritually this is exponential in its benefits. We can learn disciplines that help us grow in our relationship with God, while also correcting us when we are going astray.
If there is no person in your life that is even just a couple steps ahead of you, that can pour into you spiritually, emotionally, practically, and help you learn new things and have new experiences, then you are missing out on a big dose of the happy hormone dopamine.
Peers Stimulate the Hormone Oxytocin
The second kind of friend that you need is someone or a few people who are in the same stage of life. About your age group, similar life experiences now, people you can confide in, laugh with, pray with, discuss life with and who are holding you to a standard.
They don’t all need to be single, but some should be.
Single Christians have unique challenges that only other single Christians can really understand. When we embrace those around us that share that experience and commit to making those healthy, loving, happy relationships we all benefit from that.
Obviously, friend groups can and should have a mix of singles and couples, but included in your peer group should be people who can relate to your experience.
When we laugh with our friends, we get shots of endorphins and oxytocin that promote positive feelings and prosocial behavior.
When you don’t laugh, especially with other people, you slowly suck the life out of your life.
Laughter with friends is a resuscitator. Even reflecting on a past good memory with a friend can increase your happy hormone release.
There is a misconception that only sex or breastfeeding produces that hormone, so it is restricted to those types of relationships. But that is not true. Other physical affection appropriate to a friendship like hugging or holding hands gives you a huge dose of oxytocin.
This is the power of friendship. And these hormones, particularly oxytocin bonds you to those people and so even anticipating that you are going to see them or talk makes your mind happy.
Mentoring Releases Endorphins
We need to pour into other people just like we have someone pouring into us. It is as important and happiness-producing for us to do acts of kindness for others as to receive from others.
The endorphin rush that we get from an act of kindness doesn’t last for long.
When we make a point of continuing that through the mentorship of another person, spending time with them, teaching, encouraging, sharing great times, that happy hormone is increased regularly.
It brings with it the dopamine of doing new things, the oxytocin of laughing, bonding and physical affection, and the serotonin of remembering the good times that you share.
When we give back to others in a balanced way we can reap the benefits of both giving and receiving.
Investing in others who are younger or coming after us is a biblical principle.
Moses and Joshua, Eli and Samuel, Deborah and Barak, Naomi and Ruth, Elijah and Elisha, and the list goes on.
When God-honoring people invest in others, we create communities that are stronger for God and His cause.
The Ultimate Example
The ultimate example of all these types of relationships is Jesus.
No surprise since He is the ultimate example of everything good.
Jesus spent hours and sometimes the whole night getting wisdom, strength, and direction from His Father.
He sought companionship and support from his disciples, his friends.
Jesus poured Himself out in service to the people.
To be happy in any season of life intentionally seek out relationships where you get, you share, and you give.
Science agrees with this writer that the importance of good, healthy, friendships cannot be overstated.
“Christian sociability is altogether too little cultivated by God’s people… Those who shut themselves up within themselves, who are unwilling to be drawn upon to bless others by friendly associations, lose many blessings; for by mutual contact minds receive polish and refinement; by social intercourse acquaintances are formed and friendships contracted which result in a unity of heart and an atmosphere of love which is pleasing in the sight of heaven.” Radiant Religion, p.161
I went out to find a friend, I could find no one there.
I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.