Jackie Gingrich Cushman

For those of us with school-age children, May Madness is almost over. No longer simply a time for tests, projects and wrapping up work before the end of the school year, May has become a time for year-end celebrations, ceremonies and get-togethers. May is the new December in terms of over-scheduled activities and events.

Thank goodness it's near the end of the month. I am exhausted, behind in all sorts of paperwork and processes and recently have been trying to determine how to best hide from the world, catch up and rest.

My husband, Jimmy, on the other hand, gets enjoyment not from staying home and hibernating but from going out, getting involved and being around people. Jimmy is often referred to as "the nicest guy I know." (It's not just me saying this phrase within his earshot. The phrase is an almost universally agreed-upon descriptor.) He gains energy from being with people. For years, our children and I have teased him about his love for meeting people, talking and making friends even when he goes into a service station to pay for gas.

An article released this week, "Friendship: Friends with many benefits," by Lauren Brent in "New Scientist Magazine," provides the science behind his predilection for people and gives me reason to rethink my strategy for recharging.

"We need friends," writes Brent. "They have a positive impact on our health, wealth and mental well-being. Social isolation, on the other hand, creates feelings akin to physical pain and leaves us stressed and susceptible to illness. In fact, our bodies react to a lack of friends as if a crucial biological need is going unfulfilled. This is not surprising. For us humans, friends are not an optional extra -- we have evolved to rely on them."

It's not just a feeling, according to Brent, but a chemical response to being with other people. "Being friendly is linked with the release of various neurotransmitters in the brain and biochemicals in the body that make us feel good."

And it's not just the physical contact, either, because most friendships entail no more than shaking hands and a quick hug.

Since friendships tend to revolve around shared activity and social interaction, it's also behavioral synchrony, in other words, being at the same place at the same time doing the same thing.

Robin Dunbar, who conducted research at the University of Oxford, discovered that "despite exerting the same physical effort, people who rowed as a synchronous pair released more endorphins than those who rowed alone."


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.