• Making Friends

CBS Sunday Morning looks at the power of friendship

Rita Braver speaks to The Friendship Doctor

Rita Braver and Dr. Irene S. Levine talk about the power of friendship

We all know that good friends make us feel good—but even scientists aren’t really sure why. Last weekend, CBS Sunday Morning national correspondent Rita Braver took a look behind the emerging science of friendship.

She visited two psychologists at the University of Virginia, who are doing pioneering research in the field. Associate professor James Coan is conducting research that shows when subjects are given mild electric shocks, the part of their brains that sensed danger “fired up” (a sign of anticipatory anxiety) less when they are holding the hand of a close friend than when they are alone.

“The burden of coping with life’s many stresses, when you have to deal with them all by yourself, it not only feels more exhausting, it literally creates more wear on your body,” commented Coan.

In another study at the same University, Professor Dennis Proffitt and a team of graduate students asked subjects with heavy backpacks to gauge the steepness of a hill. The hill seemed less steep when people were with their friends.

“Moreover, if you look at the strength of their friendships, the more time they spend together with their friend, the shallower the hill appears,” said Proffitt.

Braver and producer Kay Lim also traveled across the country to meet with two groups of besties: seven women who live around Dale, Wisconsin and four men, who live in the Dallas, Texas area. All spoke about the benefits of being surrounded by friends during hard times and happy ones.

Using science and real life examples, Braver and the CBS Sunday Morning team made a compelling case for making and nurturing close friendships. Even I felt a tinge of “circle envy” as I watched the Dale women talk from their hearts about their tight-knit group.

But we all know that not all friendships are perfect and not all friendships, even very good ones, last forever. Thus, we need to know how to discern the good from the bad and work at maintaining the ones we want to keep.

I was honored that Rita Braver included me in the segment and spoke with me, in-depth, about why and how friendships go awry. She refers to me as the “Dear Abby” of friendship.

Yes, I spent 15 hours cleaning up my messy office and the production crew spent seven hours filming at my house—all of it whittled down to a few minutes that will hopefully resonate with many.

If you missed it, you can take a peek at the segment here; I make my cameo at 4 minutes and 44 seconds.

I’d love to hear your reactions to the CBS Sunday Morning piece…

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Category: IN THE MEDIA, MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (13)

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  1. Wow — congrats to you, Irene! So wonderful to see your good work honored and featured in this way. You rock!

  2. ruth pennebaker says:

    You’re a star. I always knew it.

  3. Jane Boursaw says:

    How fun! You did a great job.

  4. What a great story–and opportunity for you to share your expertise!

  5. Excellent job. The part with you in the MRI machine really spoke to me. Thanks so much!

  6. Sheryl says:

    You did a spectacular job! Hard to believe that 22 hours were spent between prepping and filming for that four -plus minutes. But I’m sure it was all worth it. It was to all the viewers, including me 🙂

  7. Irene you were terrific! And your office looks as though it is always very neat!

  8. Jessica Brida says:

    Great segment, Irene!

  9. Friendship Doc says:

    Thanks, Judy!

  10. Judy Kirkwood says:

    What a great, positive piece. And you look and sound great. Thank goodness for your wise counsel.

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