I’m going out to eat tonight. Every couple of weeks, I bike to my friend’s house down the road. We cook and eat together and have our mid-week catch up. In the alternating weeks, she comes to my house. The food is pretty good, and the company is even better. It’s good just to sit, vent and really laugh with someone who knows you well. I also have a regular date with another couple of friends who come over for dinner every second Saturday. One has just started a demanding new job and the other is mum to three delightful and extremely energetic kids. As she says, sometimes she really needs a break from ‘poohs and snot’.
I’m not at home every other weekend, as my brother and I take turns to spend weekends with Dad. Like everyone in our family, he’s been an enthusiastic cook and eater all his life, but poor health has caught up with him and sometimes he can’t be bothered with meals. When he has company and a little help, it’s a lot easier to make the effort – not just to cook, but to sit down with a plate, a knife and a fork for a proper meal. He’s old-school, so he even has a tablecloth.
A year ago, I would have told you I didn’t have time to cook a nice meal or have people over, especially not on a week night. Now, it’s right up there with making time for exercise. There’s proof in HFG dietician Brooke Longfield’s article on the ‘Blue Zones’ (communities around the world where people enjoy long, healthy lives), which contains an illustration of a food and lifestyle pyramid. At the very base of this pyramid, there’s the advice to “dine with others and build strong social networks”. This is especially important to me because “meaningful connection with others”, in the form of “close, intimate, supportive relationships” helps “protect against depression”.
And, if I can be honest with you, the benefits don’t stop there. You can get a bit sloppy when you live by yourself, but the certainty that company’s coming every second Wednesday gives me the motivation to clean the house, even if it is only every second Tuesday.
*Lynne Glen is a guest blogger and reader of Healthy Food Guide. She has taken up the challenge to use the mental well-being and resilience advice from the July 2017 issue and write about her progress.