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The following is an excerpt from the book Shape Your Self
by Martina Navratilova
Published by Rodale; March 2006;$27.95US/$37.95CAN; 1-59486-282-6
Copyright © 2006 Martina Navratilova

Tap Into the Healing Power of Support

I used to hate being alone. I always needed somebody down the hall or in the same building, or I'd start getting sad and nervous. I don't know why; I just really enjoy having positive people around me -- people who make me feel good. I have gotten over my fear of being alone, though it took a long time. Some days, I find that I actually look forward to more free time alone, and I do need shelter when I'm playing tennis. Today, if I'm home alone with a couple of hours to kill, I like it very much. I don't have to schedule anything. I can read, watch television, walk on the beach, dabble in woodworking, or do some remodeling. I admit I'd feel strange, though, if all my dogs weren't there. They don't talk back, and I'm getting to appreciate this more and more.

While it's good to have some alone time -- it's a great safety valve when you're under pressure -- you don't want to let yourself get too socially isolated. It can be harmful to your health in the long term. Some studies suggest that social isolation is on a par with smoking, high blood pressure, and lack of exercise as a risk factor for getting seriously ill and even dying prematurely.

On a positive note, good friends can add years to your life. A huge body of research shows that when you have strong social contacts -- with a spouse, a partner, a close-knit family, a group of good friends, or other people -- you're apt to live longer and have better health. Though relationships sometimes go sour and can become counterproductive, having a good support system enhances your immunity, reduces stress, and lifts depression. Good friends -- well, let's just say they're good for your health.

Following Through

  • Volunteer for a charity, organization or community cause or work on a political campaign. This can be a great way to meet new people.
  • Begin to socialize more with neighbors or co-workers. Invite them over for a social gathering or offer to help them out in a pinch.
  • Attend a class to learn something new -- and meet new people.

Reprinted from: Shape Your Self: My 6-Step Diet and Fitness Plan to Achieve the Best Shape of Your Life by Martina Navratilova © 2006 Rodale Inc. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at