Your Friends and Family Could Be Hurting Your Health

by Matt Weik

We all have friends, family members, and people we associate with at work who have some unhealthy habits. Unfortunately, some of those habits can rub off on you. Without you even knowing it, someone is damaging your health simply by you being around them. It’s almost as if you’re guilty by association. This article will show some common ways that the people around you might be hurting your overall health and ways you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap.

1. Stress

Life has a way of supplying us with an endless amount of stress. It’s not like we need our friends or family adding to our already stressful lives, yet that seems to happen on a daily basis. Let’s use an example of someone you know dealing with something extremely stressful. Maybe they got some bad news from a doctor, or their home life isn’t the best, or maybe it’s your associate and they are getting bogged down with work and their boss is constantly on them. Seeing someone else stressed can almost have an osmotic effect on you. The next thing you know, your heart rate is increased, you’re becoming flustered, your blood pressure rises, your blood sugar levels increase, and you feel your muscles starting to get tight.

All of this added stress is going to take a toll on your body and health. As you become stressed out over something (or for no apparent reason, simply because someone you know is stressed), your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. Having high levels of cortisol in the body can lead to a compromised immune system which in turn can lead to an illness. You will find your energy levels suffering and your mood heading south.

So, how can you combat stress so you don’t shoot cortisol levels through the roof and wind up sick? It’s quite simple, work on your breathing. Take time to sit somewhere quietly and focus on each breath. Doing this will help calm your nerves, take your mind off of the stress you are feeling, and put you in a state of relaxation. If you live in a high stress environment whether at work or at home, take time each day to focus on your breathing or meditation. Through doing this for yourself, you can mitigate the stress response being put on you.

2. Diabetes

Now, many of you might be thinking, “how can a friend or family member give me diabetes?”—well, hear me out. We surround ourselves with people of influence in our lives, right? So, generally we have similar mannerisms and lifestyles. It has been said that you are what you eat. Well, now you basically are also what your spouse or friend eats. Similar behaviors can result in similar outcomes. If your spouse eats junk food, cakes, fried foods, and other unhealthy options, more than likely you are probably also indulging in such items. It’s said that if your significant other gets Type 2 diabetes, you increase your chance of becoming diabetic as well by around 26%.

If you want to ensure you stay healthy, you also need to create an environment around you that is cohesive to maintaining a healthy lifestyle—this means having your spouse and friends you associate with on the same page. Exercising with your significant other or friends is a great way to build a team environment where everyone is on the same journey. You don’t have one person eating an entire pizza while the other has a salad in front of them. Prepare healthy meals at home and partake in activities that promote health such as going for walks or runs with family and friends. Try to eliminate bad choices and environments. Enjoying yourself at the bar with your significant other or buddies ordering round after round of drinks and wings is not a good decision—for either of you.

3. Hangovers

Misery loves company. When your buddy is in a bad mood, they might need a shoulder to lean on with a few cold ones. You hit up the bar and order round after round. Before you know it you’ve completely lost count of how many drinks you’ve had and you’re definitely drunk. Just because you lost count of all those drinks doesn’t mean the calories don’t count. So, not only are you probably way over your calories for the day, but your buddy’s stress is now affecting your stress levels, not to mention you wake up the next morning hungover from consuming too much alcohol. There is no win in this situation, only a ton of losses.

Find something constructive to do if your buddy is going through a tough time. Go for a hike in the woods, head to the gym and throw the weights around a little to get rid of some frustration. There is no good that comes from hanging out at a bar drinking all night to forget about your problems and everything that is stressing you out. When you sober up, all of those problems will still be there. In fact, the same side effects that applied above in #1, also apply here.

4. Obesity

This is a touchy subject. You are a representation of your environment for the most part. If you are surrounded by people who enjoy eating clean, healthy foods, generally you will also be eating the same foods. If your environment has you surrounded by pizza and television every night, guess what? You’re going to find yourself packing on the pounds. With the latter, you’re setting yourself up to be an obesity statistic. While it’s cool to be considered a statistic, you’re unfortunately on the wrong side of the spectrum here. If your spouse or friend that you hang out with the most is obese, unfortunately that puts you at a disadvantage I’m sorry to say. In fact, your chance of becoming obese because of the people you are around the most increases by 57%. Those aren’t good odds if you were betting on your life.

Based on our environment, we can become lazy and relaxed when we see others around us gaining weight. We don’t seem to feel as motivated because we form an attitude where we know we look better than our friends, so what does it matter if we slack off a little and slip up with our nutrition and exercise? You can’t allow yourself to mentally get to that point.

If you want to stay fit and healthy, you might need to start hanging out with other likeminded individuals. It’s never easy, but it’s something even I had to do over the years. People change, and not always for the better. Rather than following people down the wrong path, you need to simply find your own again and pick up people on the way who share your same passion for staying healthy. Now, it doesn’t mean you need to completely cut some of those old friends out of your life, but being a product of your environment, you either need to plan accordingly if you are hanging out by possibly bringing your own food, or stick to water for the night so you aren’t filling yourself up with calories from alcohol which you don’t need.

5. Immunity

Have you ever gone up to your friend and as you’re approaching you see them sneeze into their hands or wipe their nose with their hand and upon your arrive they extend their hand looking for a handshake? What do you do? Be nice and shake their hand while you know it’s all germy or do you maybe go for the fist bump instead to mitigate the number of germs you’ll get on your hands? Or maybe you shake their hand and then excuse yourself by mentioning you need to hit the restroom and you’ll be right back? There’s your opportunity to quick bail so you can scrub your hands with soap and hot water. Either way, our friends and significant other have a high probability of passing to us whatever sickness or sniffle they may have. Kissing your significant other is another way to transfer germs and sickness if you aren’t careful—but who’s not going to give their significant other a kiss? For that reason, we need to always be on defense. Prepare yourself for what those around you might have.

While sometimes there’s nothing we can truly do, you should always pay attention to those around you. Wash your hands regularly, and believe it or not, good nutrition and exercise is a great way to boost your immune system to ward off some of the common illnesses we can catch. Bathe regularly and maintain proper hygiene. Also, if your friend or family member is sick, try to stay clear of them if you can. If it’s someone you live with, there’s no getting around the fact that everything they touch could potentially get you sick, so again, remember to take precautions and wash/sanitize your hands regularly (as well as cleaning your house to rid it of any germs floating around and on surfaces).