How important is friendship to you?
Did you know that fostering long-lasting, supportive friendship is not only fun and rewarding but is also extremely good for your mental and physical health?
In an evening course I took at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection; the relationship between stress and disease.
The speaker (the head of psychiatry at Stanford) said that, among other things, one of the best things a man can do for his health is to marry a woman. Conversely, one of the best things a woman could do for her health was not to be married but—you guessed it—to nurture her relationships with other women.
At first, everyone laughed, but it wasn’t a joke.
Women and friendship.
When it comes right down to it, women are just better at forming these deep connections with each other.
We connect in more natural, intuitive ways, and provide support systems that help each other deal with everything from everyday stress to difficult life experiences.
This isn’t just hearsay—it has been scientifically shown that our quality “girlfriend time” helps us create more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can combat depression. Serotonin also contributes to a general feeling of wellbeing.
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What’s the difference?
There are some fundamental differences in the way women and men relate to each other.
When women share a friendship, they share their feelings with each other. On the contrary, men often form friendships that are based on activities or sports. Men rarely sit down with a buddy to talk about their deep feelings or share how their private lives are going.
Jobs, yes. Sports, yes. Sex, yes. But their true, vulnerable feelings around all these things? Rarely.
Women, on the other hand, do it all the time.
From an early age, we share from our souls with our sisters, friends, and mothers. Evidently that is very good for our health.
The Stanford professor went so far as saying that the time we spend enjoying a friendship face-to-face is just as important as working out at a gym or jogging.
There’s a tendency to think that exercising is the ultimate form of fitness and that hanging out with friends is neutral or even bad for our health if we are out for dinner or enjoying drinks together.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, he said that failing to maintain quality friendships is as dangerous to our health as smoking!
So whenever you devote time to just hanging out and shooting the breeze with a girlfriend, pat yourself on the back and feel confident that you are doing something good for your health!
Need more convincing to work on a friendship today? Here are some more compelling reasons to nurture your friendships.
What are the benefits of friendships?
- Good friends are good for your health.
- Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times.
- Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too.
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.
- Boost your happiness.
- Reduce stress.
- Improve your self-worth.
- Friends give a perspective that can help you make important decisions. Sometimes it’s good to get a second opinion from someone who knows you well and cares about you.
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one.
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.
So let’s toast to each and every friendship that we treasure with a girlfriend. Forward this to all of your girlfriends and prioritize keeping in touch—it is very, very good for your health!
Thanks to all the girls in my life who have helped me stay healthy, happy, and feeling very loved.
Life isn’t about surviving the storm; but how you dance in the rain.
Now get out there and find some ways to nurture a friendship today. Even if you can’t physically be in touch, reach out and Facetime or have a Skype conversation to catch up.
Linda Edgecombe, CSP
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