If you’ve been on Facebook in the last week, you may have noticed a trend among your friends’ posts. From National Girlfriends Day (August 1) to National Sisters Day (August 7), timelines this month have been dedicated to the love between gal pals.
But what many people may not realize, as they’re sharing selfies of themselves and their besties, is that those female connections are actually beneficial to our health and well-being. Here’s how:
1. They fill an emotional gap.
“Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates,” Carrie Bradshaw once mused. These days, that statement might ring true even more than it did when Sex and the City originally filmed. Marriage rates are at a record low, leading women to rely on one another for moral support and guidance. “For many women, friends are our primary partners through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses,” wrote Rebecca Traister in The New York Times.
2. They are a positive source of influence.
Psychology Today columnist Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., discussed the concept of “Friendfluence” as coined by author Carlin Flora. This theory, she explains, suggests that friends can help you reach your goals, strengthen your relationships, become more altruistic, and make more friends to continue the cycle.
3. They may help you live longer.
Social interactions are proven to have positive physiological effects, including lower cholesterol and blood pressure. According to a study of 1,500 women conducted by Flinders University in Australia, women with many friends lived 22% longer than women with few friends. A study by Harvard Medical School dating back to 1991 discovered that women with friends have a lower chance of developing physical problems while aging and that not having friends can affect lifespan as much as smoking cigarettes or being overweight can. In fact, some believe that having friends can actually prevent you from partaking in unhealthy behaviors, WebMD reported.
4. They help you cope with stress.
A UCLA study discovered that women under stress receive a calming effect when gathering with other women, a theory researchers refer to as “tend and befriend.” In fact, they believe women seek out social interactions with friends or by caring for children, as a way to cope with stress. This response, the author notes, is also healthier than the response often seen in men. “Men are more likely than women to respond to stressful experiences by developing certain stress-related disorders, including hypertension, aggressive behavior, or abuse of alcohol or hard drugs,” author Shelley E. Taylor wrote, adding: “Because the tend-and-befriend regulatory system may, in some ways, protect women against stress, this bio-behavioral pattern may provide insights into why women live an average of seven-and-a-half years longer than men.”
Another study conducted in 2009 by researchers at the University of Michigan found that feeling a closeness to other women helped women’s bodies create more of the hormone progesterone, leading to feelings of happiness and calm.
Integrative Nutrition students experience the benefits of this type of bonding regularly with their classmates. There is nothing better than being surrounded by strong, inspiring like-minded women who are passionate about making the world a better place.
So the next time you’re about to snap a photo of you and your She-Wolf Pack—on the way to the latest chick flick, perhaps—make sure your girls know how much you’re all benefiting each other. That’s certainly something to smile about!
How do the women in your life impact you? Share your love and thanks for those lovely ladies in the comments below!