I’m a mother. I’m also a daughter, a wife, a sister and a friend.
Women have so many roles to play, that sometimes it can be confusing; which hat we’re putting on or did we put on the correct outfit for those shoes we have to fill today?
One of the most important and yet least understood areas of psychology concerns the role of friends in our lives.
We all already know how incredible it feels to be with our girlfriends, but if we ever had any doubts that friends are one of the most important aspects of life, author Carlin Flora’s book – Friendfluence – and a recent study out of Stanford, will convince you just how “healthy” these female friendships are.
When it comes to happiness, your friends are the key.
- No one knows you like a girlfriend: Those embarrassing moments, those hard-to-recreate experiences of hilarity as well as the dark times—your girlfriends know more about you than you’d like to admit to a judge and jury under oath. And they are likely to never judge you, no matter the situation, but rather support you through it or drag you out of it. How special is that?
- Friendfluence affects you in more ways than you realize: Flora made up the word “friendfluence” to capture the effect that friends have on our lives: “Friendfluence is the powerful and often unappreciated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives”. Friendfluence also gives you vital life skills; “the very abilities one generally needs to be successful in life”. Whether you realize it or not, your friends have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer your friends.
- Childhood friendships start your learning process: Early friendships play a vital role because they occur while key developmental changes are taking place. They help teach us some of those important life skills but also shape our life “narrative.” Flora advocates for parents and teachers to give kids unstructured time to work out their own social relationships rather than to over-program them into restrictive activities.
- Teen friendships shape your later romantic bonds: Though parents spend much of their time worrying about who their teenage kids are with, these relationships are a training ground for the later long-term bonds that will evolve through adulthood. Flora advises parents to recognize that peers will “trump” them every time, and so instead of fighting with your kids about spending too much time with their friends, or who their friends are, you can help your children more by inviting their friends over to your home.
- Only another woman can understand: There are a plethora of life occurrences that only another female will understand. Don’t get me wrong, a good man will try (thanks, honey), but no matter how much effort he puts in, he cannot understand everything you go through. You know who can? Your girlfriends.
- Sharing and Pedicures: Okay, this one might seem comparatively shallow. However, there’s something purely relaxing and wonderful about sitting next to one of your besties, delighting in something as basic as having pretty toes, while sharing. The stereotype that women are better communicators is not necessarily spot-on, but I really do think there is truth to the notion that women share more—and bare more—in our relationships than many of our male counterparts; and, speaking from personal experience, sharing words, thoughts and affection with my girls is enriching to my life on more levels then I can name.
- Fun! There’s a reason that “girls night out” has a connotation of joie de vivre—women are a blast, plain and simple. All women everywhere need to have the occasional girls’ night out—or they should if they want more laughter and joy brought into their lives and souls.
- Friends can give you a reality check: Who but your closest friends will tell you that your new outfit is ridiculously garish? What person you meet on the street will let you know that your latest romantic interest is going to bring you heartbreak? Because friends know us so well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality with you without negativity or smacking you down completely. You know that your best friends only ever have your best interests at heart.
- Not all women are b*tches: (yes we said it) Women have a bad rap as being catty and nasty to each other. Unfortunately, you’ll be able to find examples of this almost anywhere you look. Still, I think this is like most groups in life—the loudest, most annoying participants often get heard, but this doesn’t make them the majority or the most important. Without a shadow of a doubt, I know that there are women who don’t judge each other harshly, who appreciate and lift up other ladies instead of dragging them down, and who possess the sort of self-acceptance that allows them to seek out other successful women; I know this because I am one. Believe what you want, but there are plenty of women out there who adore others of their sex—and who have no desire to tear them to bits.
- Evolution: I can see the evolution of my own self by looking at the friends I’ve chosen at various points in my life. Beauty in friendship is ageless; as women grow older, there’s a certain confidence, radiance, and authentic inner light that dazzles. So wrinkles be damned, rather than viewing out-grown alliances as a waste of time or something to lament, see the beauty in each one, try looking at them as learning experiences and simple opportunities to see how far you’ve come.
Being a woman rocks! So let’s toast to our friendship with our girlfriends, evidently it’s very good for our health!
Here is the research:
In an evening class at Stanford, the last lecture was on the mind-body connection – the relationship between stress and disease.
The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically, this quality “girlfriend time” helps us to create more serotonin – a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well-being.
Women share feelings, whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going. Jobs? Yes. Sports? Yes. Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf? Yes. But their feelings? Rarely. Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters/mothers, and evidently that is very good for our health.
He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. There’s a tendency to think that when we are “exercising,” we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged—not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!
Article information and pieces from Jennifer – elephantjournal.com, Erica – WotF.com, Susan – phycologytoday.com