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139: The Power of Friendship for Men's Health

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139: The Power of Friendship for Men's Health

Apr 25, 2023

Loneliness and happiness play a significant role in men's overall health, and the importance of friendships cannot be underestimated. In this episode, the Who Cares guys delve into two major studies on loneliness and happiness, share their personal experiences of making and maintaining friendships, and provide practical strategies to help strengthen the relationships in a guy's life. Discover the impact of friendships on men's well-being and how to cultivate meaningful connections.

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Scot: Troy, you ever think about the relationships in your life, like your friends, your family, your coworkers, what they mean to you, anything like that? Is that something that even goes through your brain in the day-to-day?

Troy: It does. It sure does. Yeah, I do think a lot about definitely my family and those relationships. And certainly, lately, this last year, I've definitely thought a lot about the coworkers who I consider friends and those relationships as well. So it does go through my mind.

Scot: How about you, Mitch?

Mitch: I used to see it more as a means of networking and trying to self-enrich in one way or another. But during COVID being isolated from everyone for a while and not having . . . struggling to be able to have those types of connections, I definitely have a very different perspective and appreciation for the relationships I have. And I do what I can to try to build them in a way that I didn't in my 20s.

Scot: So they're important to you?

Mitch: Yeah, very much.

Scot: And they're important to Troy, it sounds like?

Troy: For sure. Yeah. Without question, and have become much more important just over time, and especially lately, no doubt.

Scot: I have to admit, I don't think about them a lot, although I must admit that I am thinking about them more in my life now. But I grew up on a ranch an only child. There were no other kids around in the community my age. So I was an only child as well. I was in a career that I moved from city to city in radio, without having any friends. Friendships would kind of peel away. I don't keep in touch with anybody at school anymore. And I've been in Salt Lake City for 20 years, and I don't know that I really have that many friends.

But that's what we're going to talk about today because it turns out these relationships are something we should consider when it comes to our health. This is "Who Cares About Men's Health," providing information, inspiration, and a different interpretation of men's health. My name is Scot Singpiel. I bring the BS to the show. The MD to my BS, Dr. Troy Madsen.

Troy: Scot, I feel really, really sad after just hearing your description there.

Scot: Troy, will you be my friend?

Troy: Scot, I'm your friend. Like poor little Scot, isolated on a ranch in South Dakota, and then just this loner living out of an RV, going city to city doing radio. Oh, it's just . . .

Scot: Nothing was sad about the RV.

Troy: It's heart-wrenching.

Scot: Also with us today, a guy who's working hard on his health, and always brings a unique perspective to "Who Cares About Men's Health," it's Mitch Sears.

Mitch: Hey there. Mitch here. I also consider myself Scot's friend. So there you go. You've got at least two.

Troy: You've got two, Scot.

Scot: I guess. I mean, that's going to be part of this conversation. What is a friend when it comes to relationships? Let me just first of all say this episode was inspired by a pair of articles Troy shared with us, and one was on what the longest happiness study reveals about finding fulfillment. And that was in a magazine called "Greater Good." And the other article was How Loneliness Is Killing Men, which was in And they kind of had similar themes.

So according to the very first article, people who are more connected to family, friends, and to community are happier. They're physically healthier than people who are less well connected. And then this article goes on to say while career achievement, and exercise, and healthy diets matter, good relationships are critical to health and happiness. The loneliness article I talked about, it said studies have shown that loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking or obesity.

Mitch: Wow.

Troy: That's huge.

Scot: Let that sink in. I mean, did . . .

Mitch: No.

Scot: Could you ever imagine that loneliness could have the same impact as smoking or obesity? According to the loneliness article, it said it could lead to a weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety. Now, I think it's worth saying here that that loneliness was talking about isolation, right? So are you truly in isolation is one of the questions you'll probably want to ask yourself as you're listening to this. Or do you just kind of lack maybe the number of friends or the types of friends that you need? There was a study by BYU, by the way, that said long-term social isolation can increase a person's risk of premature death by as much as 32%.

Mitch: Yeah. During my Master's program, one of my advisors, Mark Bergstrom, if you ever want to look up his research, his whole thing was a 30- or 40-year study into successful aging. And I'd love to have him on the show one day. But one of the things that really shocked all the researchers is when they were looking up the key things that lead to a happy life after the age of 60. In the top five, was how many friends and connections they had. And it was not what the scientists were expecting. The researchers were expecting history of smoking, or good lifestyle, or activity, but here it was, time and time again, with all these different groups. Friendship was in the top five, which I just thought was just so crazy. Yeah.

Troy: This is remarkable. Yeah. I mean, just the smoking and obesity thing, to compare loneliness to that . . . And like you said, Scot, it is isolation, but I'm sure there's some degree there. If you feel relatively isolated, maybe you have a few contacts, but I'm sure there's still an impact from that. Maybe not quite to the degree of smoking heavily or extreme obesity, but it's just . . . Yeah, it's remarkable that it's going to have that sort of impact on your health and on your lifespan.

Scot: And there's another statistic that says one in five men have no close friends.

Mitch: What?

Scot: Yeah. One in five men, 20% of men don't have any close friends. So you're talking about isolation. That's the group perhaps. Now, they might have a robust family life or a robust work life, right? But I mean, just take a second to consider what has just been laid out and process what this means. Relationships are a critical component of your mental and physical health, much like what you eat and the activity that you get. Relationships. Something that I don't know that a lot of guys think about. You two do, so I really look forward to hearing some of your insight. I mean, we pay attention to eating and activity, but are we paying attention to our relationships, our family, our friends, our coworkers? So first of all, Troy, I mean, do you have a group of good friends or one good friend, or are you one of those 20% that has no close friends?

Troy: I have no close friends.

Scot: Is that true?

Troy: It's not true. Well, it's interesting though, because I hear this study and I'm thinking I consider . . . My friendships are within my family. That's where I consider my friendships to be primarily. And I have a hard time believing that someone who has those friendships within family and who leans on those relationships and gets that from . . . I don't see that as being a lot different from someone who maybe doesn't have that and has five close friends or something like that. So I will say that. In terms of friendships outside of my family, I have a lot of people I like to talk to who I'll talk to about concerns I have, things like that. But the simple reality is right now in my life, having a 6-month-old child definitely limits my social activity since I'm usually falling asleep by 8:00 now, and up at 4:00. So it's not like I'm going out and hanging out with a lot of people right now, but . . .

Scot: You didn't do that before, did you? I mean, don't use the last six months as your excuse. That was a lot of Troy's life before the last six months.

Troy: See, then I just blame it on the ER. Then I'm just like, "Well, I work really weird shifts, and I work half the weekends of the month." And there's something to that because so many of my friends are people I work with, and it's not like we're all working the same schedule and hanging out after work. It's like, "Well, I'm working this weekend, you're working next weekend." So there is something to that as well. So that being said, I think as I'm talking here, and I'm saying this, maybe I'm one of the 20%. Maybe I am.

Scot: Well, I don't know. I think it's probably more complicated than that. But I am curious, what kind of relationships you consider your family or friends . . . do you have with them? Is it just doing things together, or do you talk about really deep, meaningful things? Do you share secrets, those sorts of things?

Troy: Share my secrets, my deepest, darkest secrets. Only with you, Scot. Only with you. I would say it is varying degrees with various family members, and also with friends too. There are absolutely friends . . . I have several friends who I work with over the past year who I have shared secrets with. Essentially, you would consider them secrets, meaning things that I had not told anyone else. And some of those things were, "Hey . . ." One of my best friends at work, I told him . . . We were at work, and he's a very good friend. I was very comfortable telling him, "We've got a baby on the way." He was one of the first people I told. I had told a few people in my family. They knew, so they were aware, but things like that. And just the reaction for me was priceless. he just gave me a huge hug, and it was just such an amazing moment, a really cool moment with him. And he's someone . . .

Scot: So the hug wasn't awkward, huh?

Troy: It wasn't awkward. It was actually really special. Because he's got two kids, and talked about his experience, and just was so genuinely happy for me, it meant so much. And then he's someone who I've talked to on a regular basis about a lot of what's quite honestly going on with my career right now and about things I had never mentioned to anyone else at work about. So yeah, I would say definitely within my family, those are conversations I have on a regular basis. But even outside that, I do have others where we do have those conversations, but I do feel like sometimes just the activities together, hanging out together is kind of limited. And like I said, I've got excuses for that, but maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I should do better at that too.

Scot: Yeah. That's one of the things as I read these articles . . . We all read them, right? I'm kind of going, "What's a good friend? What's a solid friend relationship?" And I think we'll hit that in a second, but Mitch, I'm going to ask you the same question. Do you have a group of good friends, or are you one of the 20% that doesn't have what you would consider a close friend?

Mitch: I mean . . .

Troy: Mitch is the opposite. Mitch is like the top 10% of friends.

Mitch: When I hear that there's the 5% with no friends, I just want to adopt them. My little extroverted side, I'm just like, "Hey, everyone." I would make new friends, right? What's been really interesting to me is just I grew up in a family where friends were not a priority. It was something like, "You are self-reliant." It was really hard to meet up with people. It was hard to get rides to places when I was younger. I didn't have any neighborhood friends, etc.

But when I hit college, oh my god, I suddenly could find a group of people that I cared for, and they cared for me, etc. But what's been interesting is over the last, I'd say, decade or so, as I moved from my 20s to my 30s, it used to be I could throw an event and I could have 50, 60 people show up, right? And I had the right connections, and I was in the right circles, and it was a lot of extra energy that I don't know if I have anymore. But when some things in life changed, a lot of those people disappeared. They were definitely interacting and being friendly with me for their own personal gain, not necessarily because of who I was as a person. And so, after COVID, after a lot of growing up the last five, six, seven years, yeah, I have . . . I think for the first time I can actually say I have five, six friends, like friends I can say, "Hey, I'm struggling with something. Hey, can you help me out?" that I can rely on and form a little tribe of people that help take care of one another. And it's good. It's so different than what I've had in the past when I was a little social butterfly and social climber, etc. So yeah, I do.

Troy: Yeah. And that's a big distinction too. When I think of these articles and I think of what it means, like this friendship and what it means for health benefits, I think of it as having those people in your life who you can go to not with the great persona, the social media image, like, "Hey, everything's good. Let's hang out, guys." It's more these are the people I can go to, to share my concerns, my fears, my struggles, and share joy too, share my exciting news. These are the people I want to go to and can do that with. And I think there's a big difference between having a small group of those people and having 500 friends on Facebook or something. Those are very different types of friendships in my mind.

Scot: So it sounds like, Troy, that it's your family and some coworkers. Outside of those two areas, you don't necessarily have what you would consider friends?

Troy: Well, let me clarify. Yeah, I probably need to do a better job of building my case here that I do have friends.

Mitch: If you have to build a case . . .

Troy: It sounds like I need to build a better case here. One thing I have really tried to do over the last few years is to rekindle friendships with people from my past. kind of like you mentioned, Mitch, these people from your past. But these are people who have meant a lot to me at various stages who have moved on, like friends from college, from medical school, residency, from a previous job I had in California. And so I've really tried to do that as well. And so I really feel that from that group as well, there are several people in there who I kind of have that relationship with as well. And it's often texting.

We were just out in California, and I was able to see a couple of those friends out there who really mean a lot to me and we were able to have lunch together. But even though we're kind of separated by distance and we're not in touch every week by any means, or necessarily even every month consistently, those are people as well who I'm very comfortable just texting and saying, "How are things going?" And they've told me great things about their lives, and maybe things they're kind of struggling with as well. And I'm comfortable with the same with them. So, yeah, I would say there's definitely the work component, and there's definitely family. But then I think trying to just rekindle and even maintain those relationships from people I've been good friends with in the past who maybe things have kind of dropped off, that's become much more of a priority for me as well.

Scot: Yeah. And do you maintain those through texting and then through visits? I mean, do you actively think about ways you can maintain those friendships, or rekindle those friendships?

Troy: In the past two years, I have. I can say prior to that, it wasn't something I was thinking about. But now I am actively thinking about it, and I'm thinking these are people I really care about, and I like to be able to just see what's going on in their life. And so I've tried to reach out. And even in some cases, I've reached out to some people as well and it just seemed like maybe they're not as interested, which is cool. They've kind of moved on with their life, like a roommate from med school, someone who I was a good friend with. I reached out to him around Christmas, said, "Hey, this is what's going on. This is my life," sending a picture of my new baby and all that. Heard back from him and it was kind of . . . it didn't really go anywhere, which is totally fine.

Scot: Did you come on too strong? Is that the problem?

Mitch: "Look at my baby."

Troy: I think I overwhelmed him. He's like, "Dude, chill out. We were roommates, man, I don't care."

Scot: You came in a little hot. I don't know. Start out with a "What's up?" And then the baby is like four or five messages in.

Troy: Exactly. I thought I meant more to him. I helped him. He's given me credit for his marriage. He's given me that much credit for giving him the courage to seek out his spouse, so I thought . . . Anyway, it didn't really go anywhere, which is totally cool. But that being said, my other roommate, it's actually funny. It's more with his wife who there was kind of a circle of friends there and she was in that. It's more with her that we've maintained that friendship. She's a great person, and also with him as well, but she's a little more I think outgoing in that sense and keeps in touch. So, anyway, it's been a little bit of a mixed bag, but it has been a conscious effort.

Scot: Mitch, how about you? Conscious effort? I mean, how do you continue to maintain these friendships now that you have them, the ones that are meaningful to you?

Mitch: So millennial are going to talk about therapy again. It's just what I do.

Scot: It's all right. It's a viable thing to pursue, right?

Mitch: Thank you. I appreciate that. No, it was actually brought up to me after we've gotten an ADHD diagnosis, and we're finding the root causes of some of this depression and really intense anxiety, etc. And we start going through it and he . . . I'm speaking with my therapist, and he's like, "Okay, let's do a check to see why you're feeling down today. Did you get enough sleep?" And I'm like, "Yes." He's like, "How's your diet been? Have you been doing the junk food Maverick runs? Or are you actually making yourself good food?" I'm like, "Yeah, of course I'm doing good food." He's like, "Did you exercise today?" I'm like, "Well, I went for a walk, whatever." And then he said, "When was the last time you talked to a friend?"

Scot: Oh, come on.

Mitch: And that hit me a ton of bricks where it was just like . . . I'm sorry, in the Core Four, I'm here in therapy, I'm doing it, I'm done. Mental health? Check. But no, it really was this kind of like, "Well, if you're in a stressed situation, you have things happening in your life, who are you able to reach out to? Who are the people that you feel comfortable enough to talk through this that's not me, your therapist?" And it was just like, "Well, darn. I haven't been doing what I was supposed to. I haven't been nurturing that kind of communal part, that social part of my health and my humanity." So what I have started to do is I've reached out to the friends that I know want to continue to have a relationship, that I feel close with. And I just schedule stuff. Just a standing every Monday, we're going to get together and watch a TV show together, or, "Hey, every Thursday we'll meet up with another friend." It's like, "Hey, I really want to keep working out. I keep finding myself slipping. Do you mind if we go to the gym together on a Thursday?" They're not huge parties. They're not big dinner things. They're not anything. It's just, "Hey, can we once a month, meet up and go to Chili's?" Ironically, as one of my friends has me do, and I hate it, but that's okay.

Troy: Ironically because it's Chili's.

Mitch: Yeah. I love how like ironic this Presidente Margarita is. For me, at least, the same sort of approach that I take with other elements of my health. Scheduling things, prepping meals beforehand to make sure I have a meal and whatever. So when I feel low, when I feel things are going to be tough, I already have that kind of built in.

Scot: Yeah. It's scheduled. It's already happening. You don't have to call and have this awkward, "Hey, you want to go do something?" or, "I haven't been feeling so great lately." You just know it's coming up. It gives you something to look forward to. And then you've got that vent, that outlet. Yeah, that's great.

Mitch: And so that's just it too. When you start getting into that pit where you're like, "Ugh, I don't have any friends and no one wants to . . . I don't want to reach out to anyone and I don't . . . Oh, I would need to talk to someone, but that'll be weird. It'll be too strong." No, I'm going to work out with so-and-so on Thursday, I'm going to see them, and if I'm still feeling crappy, then I can talk to them. That's something I've been doing for maybe the last two years, and I cannot tell you how much it has meant to me and the people that I do it with on top of that. Even if we miss a day or two, this idea that, "Hey, I care about you. I want to at least connect once a month," once a week, or whatever, and how powerful that's been in my mental health.

Troy: That's so cool. I wish I did that more. Honestly, I just . . . Because like I said, I'm more texting and keeping in touch. Maybe there's a phone call here and there, but to do what you're doing and scheduling stuff on a regular basis, yeah, it's great to hear you're doing it. I wish I were doing that more, and I will try to. Hearing that . . .

Mitch: I wasn't doing it. It took the therapist being like, "Hey, you need to approach this the same as all the other things you're doing with your health."

Scot: You have to plan it. You have to account for it. Yeah. It's not just going to happen. Like we've talked about it before, if you go with the flow, you're going to be in a friendless flow.

Troy: Yeah. And in so many ways too, it's work. It's work to do that just like it is to exercise, and just like it is to focus on your diet, and not smoke, and maintain that. So it's work to do that with clear health benefits. So I think if you'd look at it that way . . . And I think too, for me, you kind of mentioned also you don't want it to be weird. And that's probably been my biggest issue. I'm like, "I don't want people to be like, 'Ugh.'" And it's that concern about rejection too. I don't want to be like, "Hey, do you guys want to come over?" Invite another couple over or something, and they'd be like, "Yeah, I don't think so. Your dogs stink or your house is messy," or something . Or just like, "Yeah, you're weird." There's no question, I will admit I do fear rejection, and so that's often a limitation for me, and really reaching out to try and schedule stuff with people.

Scot: So my situation is I have a couple of friends now that I go do things with. Again, a lot of my life has been spent being a loner in my leather jacket riding my motorcycle.

Mitch: Oh, that's so cool.

Troy:You're a rebel.

Scot: Cool, not good for your health. Plus also, I don't have necessarily a big family. I don't have any other family that really lives nearby. And I started thinking, "I need to have friends. I think I like friends. I think I like people." So one of them, I don't know, five or six years ago, I called up for some financial advice because I knew that he was an economist. And I just said, "Hey, let me pay you back, and let's go get chicken wings or something." And we've been going out once a month for the past five years. So that's just always on the schedule. That was actually a hard ask to say, "Hey, do you want to continue doing this?" We think about how hard it is to talk to people we're attracted to, but talking to another guy about being a friend can be a little scary as well.

And then I had a coworker that I really liked a lot and he ended up leaving, and it was kind of the same thing. I'm like, "I like this guy." He was fun, he was smart, I enjoyed talking with him. So I just reached out and said, "Hey, let's go out to lunch sometime." And we do a once-a-month thing as well. So I find a lot of value in what you said, Mitch, when you have that thing scheduled. And there have been times I didn't want to go because I'm tired, or I'm just not feeling great, but every time I go and I have conversation with these guy friends, I feel so much better. So that built-in really does help that you don't have to think about it so much. And they've even commented back to me that they don't really do this with other guys. So I don't know if it's just the combination of our friendship. I don't know if it's because it's a commitment that . . .

Troy: You sure they're exclusive, Scot? I don't know. They say that to all the guys.

Scot: They sure do, huh? So, for me, it was very active. And I had to go back into my past because I think one of the hardest things for Troy and I, especially being as old as we are compared to Mitch . . . And maybe even, Mitch, now that you're at a point in your life where you're a professional, you're out of college, how do you make new friends? If you're a guy that has no friends right now, going back and probably pulling from some people that you maybe have lost touch with that you like would be a good idea. But do either one of you have any idea how to make new friends?

Troy: How to make new friends?

Mitch: Oh, man.

Troy: That's a great . . . I have no idea. I will say the baby world has opened up a whole new world to me in terms of activities and meeting people, and that's been kind of cool just because we're going to these baby story times and talking to people and meeting new people. It's not like we're setting up times to go hang out with them or anything. But it has been something that's worked for us. I've heard also people talk about their dogs and meeting people where they're walking their dogs. And I will say most people in my neighborhood I know because of their dogs and . . .

Scot: And you know their dogs' names and not their names, right?

Troy: That's exactly right. I know their dogs' names. I always know their dogs' names before I know their names, but in most cases I just know their dogs.

Scot:Yes, [crosstalk 00:24:31].

Troy:Yeah, exactly. So those are probably the two things I've found. At least you're meeting some people, but I can't say I have any super close friendships at this point from those routes.

Scot: Yeah. Mitch, meeting new friends, how do you do that?

Mitch: So the thing that I have actively tried to do, again because I talked to my therapist, is to actively . . . So there are four types of friendships. Men only really deal with two of them. The first one is called friendships of proximity. We are small children, we are pushed in the same neighborhood, we are therefore friends, right? We move on and we have the friends of convenience. These are your work coworkers, etc. You have to deal with each other every day. And so you kind of find this whatever. And there are two other ones, and it's the friendships of enrichment and friendships of intimacy. Those are hardest ones to find. And they're the ones that you can share secrets with. They're the ones that people give you something and there's this back-and-forth relationship. And men, we don't have a whole lot of ways to broach that. So what I do is I try to find clubs and situations where I know that that particular activity or interest is going to lead to a shared set of values.

So a couple years ago, stopped with COVID or whatever. I like tabletop board games. I really love them. I think they're fun. And I used to have a casual board game friend group, many of who have now moved away, but I found a local game guild. I was super awkward, and I was like, "Oh, no, I'm going to go to a game store, and I'm going to play with a bunch of strangers." And I actually met a couple of people that I knew. We both enjoyed this one activity, and I knew on top of that that we could talk about that. That kind of allowed me to broach past that awkward get to know someone. But then on top of that, there was a shared enjoyment, and at the very least I've already jumped to that third or fourth level of friendship with this other person because of a shared thing that we had together. Now, it's scary, it's hard to find these types of groups, but writing groups or open mic nights at coffee shops or whatever, there are places that you can go out and engage, but you've got to actually take the steps to do it. A friend is not going to just fall into your lap, right? So that's what I do.

Troy: Yeah. That's interesting. And honestly, I can't imagine doing that. I can't imagine going to a board game night. I love the idea of it. I just can't see it. And people talk about book clubs too. I can't imagine going to a book club. It's just not me, I guess. I don't know. So that's where it becomes tough. For me, sports, I love going to sporting events, love doing that kind of stuff. It's not like you're . . .

Scot: Yeah, there's your in maybe.

Troy: Well, it's not like you're talking to some dude sitting next to you in a seat or something at a game. So it's a little bit different. I think if you're playing sports, you've got that. And I will say we have, my wife and I, developed a number of friendships through running, more through her, and have some very good friends through that. So, yeah, I think there's maybe that for some people in terms of just sporting events, run clubs. Run groups I know are a great way to meet people with a common interest. So I think it's maybe more about just finding what you find interesting, but yeah, if it's board games, if it's book clubs, those sorts of things, I think those are great options if that's your thing.

Scot: A couple of other options that the loneliness article offered. Finding a shared activity is key. We talked about that. Volunteering.

Mitch: Oh, sure.

Scot: A friend of mine and I, the chicken wing guy, we were talking about what we want to do . . . if we wanted to keep doing this, or do something else, and we both said, "Oh, we'd like to maybe try Habitat for Humanity and volunteer."

Mitch: Oh, cool.

Scot: I mean, you'd meet other people there. So that would be something else that you could try.

Troy: That's a great idea.

Mitch: And then all those people have shared values too, right? This is something that they're interested in, they're willing to devote their time to. That jumps a whole lot of the commonality stuff. Fertile ground for friendships.

Scot: Plus also, I think it was the happiness article said that your friendships and your relationships change with time. And earlier in your life you experienced what Mitch experienced, which is you have a lot of friends, but maybe they're just kind of superficial. And that's to help you network and get jobs and meet other people that can help you move through your life. And then as you get older you start thinking about what can you do for other people as opposed to what can you do for yourself? So that's another way of finding some happiness. Wow, volunteer, you not only find some happiness by doing for other people, but you also start connecting with other people as well. So those were a couple of suggestions there.

Troy: That's a great one, yeah. And I didn't even think about that. We foster a lot of animals. And again, it's more through Laura because she's kind of the connection there with a lot of the animal fostering we do. But we have a number of friends we've developed, and a lot of people we know through that who . . . again, not super tight friends, but at least people that we share that common interest with. And it's a shared activity in terms of just that volunteer piece. So, yeah, it's a great way to go and to have that shared passion, I think, with other people. I think it really goes a long way toward developing that friendship.

Scot: If you're listening and you're wondering, "Okay, what am I going to do about this? What am I going to do about this friend situation?" if friendship and relationships are just as important to your health as lifting a dumbbell, or doing a bench press, or eating the right stuff, what are you going to do? So between the two articles, there were some suggestions. One, first thing is you've got to just be aware of it. Take stock of your social life. And it sounds like Troy did that. He conducted a social inventory and decided that, "Well, I should probably try to reach out and find some more friends." So I think that's Step 1. Step 2 came back to considering how the needs change at different times in your life. We already hit that. Earlier in your life, you have different needs. Or what kinds of friends do you like hanging out with? I enjoy friends that I can have witty banter with. We can have a little bit of back and forth. It's silly, or fun, or whatever. So those are the types of friendships I enjoy. Other people might enjoy a different type of friendship, maybe a more serious type of friendship. So think about what kind of friendship you're looking for, where you are in your life, etc.

Troy: I think also something that we just haven't talked about, and I'm hesitant to say anything about this because I don't want to want this come across weird, but maybe it's more on the gratitude side. I appreciate being married. I'm not saying this to sell people you've got to get married to have a friend, because you could get married and be absolutely miserable. There's that possibility as well. But I'm grateful for that. I got married a little later in life than a lot of people and I remember many times in residency, and even when I was out working after residency, thinking, "It's been two days since I've talked to another human being." And that's kind of crazy, but I wasn't working. I wasn't out doing anything. I hadn't even spoken to another human in a couple of days. It's kind of isolating.

And being married, I am married to my best friend, and I'm very grateful for that. And I think that's something that means a lot to me. There are a lot of studies that do look at also marriage and the long-term effects on health and how that impacts it. So I think a lot of that has to do with that friendship. But again, like all this stuff we've talked about, I think it takes work. It's not something if you're married where that necessarily comes naturally. I think it is work, like all friendships are work. But I think if you are married, it's a good thing to recognize the value of that, and to kindle that friendship and recognize the health benefits that come from it.

Scot: Yeah, that's an important thing. One of the other articles said is just if you start to have stress or strife in your relationships, take steps to take care of that, rectify that. And especially in your situation, Troy, where that person is that important to you or your family is that important to you, you kind of have to put effort into it, right? It's not always going to work well.

Troy: Yeah. It's not like it's just a . . .Yeah, that's probably a good point too. It's not just a built-in friend of convenience, like, "Well, this is my friend. I'm married." You've got to put work into it to really develop that friendship too. But there are incredible health benefits from doing that.

Scot: The other thing that can get in the way of men is this notion of masculinity. And I thought this was interesting. I think this was in the loneliness article. And it just said that between the ages of 11 to 13, boys really have these really close secret friendships. They have this group of guys, it's not just about doing stuff, but it's about sharing secrets and whatever. And then this developmental psychologist said that at about 15 or 16, that closeness starts to go away, and she thinks it's these masculinity issues. So that could be getting in your way of friendship as well, which ties back into something that the happiness article said, which was that in your life, in order to nurture those friendships and keep those friendships alive, you need to let people know how much they matter to you. And that could be hard for us guys. So the article said think about somebody, just one person who's important to you, think about what they mean to you, what they've done for you in your life. Think about where you would be without them. Who would you be? And now think about what you would thank them for if you thought you would never see them again.

Mitch: Oh, wow.

Scot: And then at this moment right now, call them and tell them. And that takes a certain amount of vulnerability. I think confiding in another man some secrets or thoughts that you don't confide to other people, that's hard for us men to do. But from a communication standpoint, it's absolutely crucial to develop those deep friendships. So that's something else I have to keep in check a little bit because I think I keep things close to the vest. I don't know. It's funny. I consider myself not masculine, but I do have some masculine traits like that, like pride or not wanting to show people I care, stuff like that. So those are some things you can try. Any other thoughts before we wrap up the episode?

Troy: My thought is hearing you just even say that, about calling a friend and saying those things . . .

Scot: Does it scare you?

Troy:This scares me more than the declutter challenge scared me. The declutter challenge really scared me. Laura wants to repeat the declutter challenge this spring, and I'm just like, "No, don't do that to me again." But just the thought of that, it is. It's scary.

Scot: It is.

Troy:Yeah. It's that concern about just really putting yourself out there and feeling kind of rejected, or it's certainly the masculinity piece of it too, feeling vulnerable. You just don't want to feel vulnerable. Yeah, it is tough, but I feel like I can absolutely do better. And I love thinking about this in terms of the work I try to put in to run, and stay healthy, and diet. And I need to put in that work because there are the same benefits from healthy friendships.

Mitch: Yeah, and that's kind of the sentiment I wanted to echo. The biggest change for me is to start to think of socialization as a health impact, right? It's something that takes the same amount of effort. You have to do challenges, you have to push yourself further than you're used to, etc. Making that phone call might seem super-duper scary, but so does running a marathon, right? If you approach it in that same way . . . When Scot was telling me that, I had this wry little smile. I'm like, "I bet I could do that. I mean, that's really scary, but who would I call?" But that was it. It was a challenge. It was approaching it that way. And that hijacks this masculine part of my brain to be like, "All right. I can do this." And so, yeah, if you can take that same approach and value it as much as other things, you might be surprised how much you get out of the work you put in.

Troy: Yeah, I like it. Think of it as a challenge. That gets at the masculinity side. "It's a challenge. Am I strong enough to do this? Let me see."

Scot: Well, we're curious how are you ranking up after listening to this episode. After you do a deep dive into what your situation really is, your social situation, your relationships, are you doing okay? Are you putting that kind of effort into it that you put into other aspects of your health? Or could you do a little bit of work? Were there things here that you thought, "Wow, I want to share this idea with them," or, "Oh, that scares me. I don't know how well that would work"? Regardless of what it is, we would love to hear from you how you navigate friends and your relationships, because they are so important and so critical to your health. You can email us That's Hey, accept the challenge. Go out and see if you can find another friend. Thanks for listening, and have them listen to this episode too. And thanks for caring about men's health.

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