“Frenemies” play an inevitable role in our extended social network. Our social and professional lives require us to tolerate their ambivalence toward friendship. But our interactions with frenemies pose real threats to our wellbeing, say researchers at the University of Utah.
In an experiment, individuals were given a blood pressure monitor and told to take a recording whenever they interacted with someone. During interactions with frenemies, people’s blood pressure spiked, indicating an increased level of stress. When the frenemy was in the other room, representing the potential for awkward conversation, researchers measured the same uptick in stress levels.
It is precisely this uncertainty that characterizes our relationship with frenemies. Not knowing whether our next encounter with them will be peaceable or aggressive causes us anxiety. And this level of anxiety is reflected in our DNA. Specifically, parts of our cellular chromosomes called telomeres are affected such that we undergo prolonged stress, causing us and all our vital organs to age faster.
Reducing these ambivalent relationships, as many are now calling it, can be vital to our health. Having strong, happy relations in our inner circle, will reduce stress and make everyone a little happier. It can even reduce the “risk of death.”
Our busy lives can sometimes keep us from seeing that everyone around us needs support, not just our closest friends. And just as your frenemies have tight-knit inner circles, you are likely someone’s frenemy as well. So play nice, everyone, and be kind to each other.
As meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says, kindness is a strength that allows us to take care of ourselves first. It allows us to wish that our frenemies will break free from the negative behavior afflicting them:
Read more at BBC Future
Read more at Scientific America
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