In today’s busy world, it can seem nearly impossible to cultivate meaningful adult friendships. I mean, we have homes and careers to keep up with, family, marriage, and parenting responsibilities, bills to pay, groceries to buy, and we are all trying to get enough sleep and exercise- the thought of maintaining friendships beyond a simple “like” on Instagram can feel overwhelming!
I want to share with you that in the midst of juggling all of the balls you keep in the air, devoting time to your own grown up friendships is one of the most significant ways you can care for yourself.
Friendships provide the social support network needed to effectively ride the waves of the ups and downs each of us will experience in life. “Women are each other’s emotional support system. From giving advice, being a shoulder to cry on, keeping secrets, lending a listening ear and boosting self-esteem—developing strong and healthy female friendships is something all women can benefit from” (Fuller, 2018).
Neuroscience confirms the benefits we receive from our friends! Oxytocin is our love and bonding neurochemical. It’s what floods a woman’s system immediately after childbirth, enabling maternal attachment with her new child. It contributes to the bonding between romantic partners. Oxytocin is also released in the brain when we are interacting socially. “At our most elemental level, humans are social animals. Our brains evolved to ensure our survival, and they operate best when we interact and connect with others. Science has proven that social exchanges change (oxytocin) and circuit activity in your brain which decreases stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and ups those calm and happy feelings” (Hampton, 2015).
Women specifically reap benefits of social interaction with friends. “Women…are genetically hard-wired for friendship in large part due to the oxytocin released into their bloodstream, combined with the female reproductive hormones. When life becomes challenging, women seek out friendships with other women as a means of regulating stress levels. A common female stress response is to “tend and befriend.” That is, when women become stressed, their inclination is to nurture those around them and reach out to others” (Kamen, 2013).
Have you ever felt the need to reach out for support and a listening ear when you are feeling depressed or are facing a crisis? That’s your biology doing it’s best to urge you towards what will help you! Several years ago, I hit a critical time in my life when it felt like everything was falling apart. As I leaned heavily on my girlfriends during this time, I felt buoyed up by their strength and support. Their love made me feel worthy of care again. Their belief in me helped me re-learn to believe in myself. Reaching out for others while I was in distress created a pack of powerful, wise women around me. It turns out- my biology really did know what I needed to survive the crisis at hand!
Developing and nurturing positive female friendships will not just boost your emotional health, researchers have shown friendships impact women’s physical health as well. “The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School showed that the more friends women have, the less likely they are to develop physical impairments as they age, and the more likely they are to lead a contented life.The study also showed that not having friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as being overweight or smoking cigarettes” (Kamen, 2013).
My grown up girlfriends have been one of the biggest factors to my happiness and success navigating life. We’ve cheered each other on, been shoulders to cry on, and have celebrated the innumerable milestones of each other’s children. This pack of women let me know that I’m not alone in the world, that my parenting experiences are mostly normal, and that my thoughts and feelings are valid. They encourage me to live my best life and I cheer them on as they do the same.
We tend and befriend.
When women support each other, the results are incredible.
Fuller, K. (2018). The Importance of Female Friendships Among Women. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201808/the-importance-female-friendships-among-women
Hampton, D. (2015, June 21). Why Spending Time With Friends Boosts Your Oxytocin. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20069/why-spending-time-with-friends-boosts-your-oxytocin.html
Kamen, R. (2013, January 29). Why Friendship Is Good for Your Health. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/female-friendship_b_2193062?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAKRqwsqXN2ISO0cd4MZpmvcOtHedW2ancajDKUQIZPz02lS9cbK8dWHy8oKqr9vI0BTvdwQq6fNU-i4J-KDeAMajvfr1Gaj1xyqX2K6_3r0FdVb3cwdY66csfmeCMQxK7rPO5ZtfRnkBhO_44qeuUbTWa1MEnKgEsABDcKxvCFz5