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The Power of the BFF: Why Our Girlfriends Are Good For Our Health.

Written for Undolus by: Tara Kroes, of the Traveling Waitress

 

Years ago, women used to need each other in order to sustain life. They would raise their children together, cook together and gather food together. They relied on each other for support and survival. Their strength was in their unity.

Today, the strength of a women is measured by her independence, how much she can accomplish solo. A career, a house, a family, an exciting romantic life -- all by herself. There seems to be more of a 'competitive' feeling rather than one of solidarity among the female gender. We need to prove we can do it all, alone and better then the next women.

Come on ladies, even Wonder Women needed help sometimes.

We can't possibly do it all alone. According to recent studies, we shouldn't even be trying to do it that way.

As women, we take care, nurture and raise our children. We also (sometimes while still raising our kids) have to care for and look after aging parents. We are natural nurturers. This role habitually falls on us. But, as with any resource, we cannot deplete without replenishing.

To constantly GIVE and never get anything in return? It'll leave a woman physically drained.

We need to receive care and support in order to be able to give it. Spending time -- even a phone call with our girlfriends is the fastest way to renew this energy. Jane Fonda, a well know actress, writer, political activist and feminist, agrees with this, stating:

“Women's friendships are like a renewable source of power. Our 'we' is our saving grace, it's what makes us strong”

The support that we get from our girlfriends is unlike any other relationships we have. Of course we have other people in our lives who love us! But, the bond, compassion, empathy and support we get from our fellow female friends is a different form of energy.

According to research from the Mayo Clinic, the friendships we cultivate boost our happiness, reduce stress, improve our self-confidence and self-worth. They also help us cope with trauma. Dr. Ruthellen Josselson, co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures & Perils of Girl's & Women's Friendships says this:

“Women are such a source of strength to each other. We need to nurture one another. And we need to have an unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women. It's a very healing experience. Women instinctually know how to nourish each other, & just being with each other is restorative.”

Not only are our girlfriends important to our emotional and mental health, we also need them to improve our physical health as well. Many studies over recent years, including ones conducted by The Harvard Medical School and some published in the Journal of National Medical Association found that women with strong friendships and increased social support are shown to have lower rates of heart disease, mental health disorders, anxiety, depression and live longer, more vital lives. Not having close female friends is as harmful to our health as being over weight or smoking. Our girlfriends literally make us better people.

Humans are, by nature, social creatures. In fact, we actually crave the support in order to combat stress. Our bodies release a hormone in response to stress called oxytocin. When this hormone is released in women, it triggers what Dr. Laura Klein and Dr. Shelley Taylor refer to as the “tend and befriend” pattern.

We look for other women with whom to bond and share with while under stress. When we engage in this pattern and call on our friends for support, more oxytocin is released which lowers the levels of stress and increases our sense of calm. 

Hanging with our girlfriends PHYSICALLY calms us down and releases our stress!

One of the greatest causes of stress among women today is... dating. Many are heading back into the dating world after being out of it for many years. Trying to make sense of and maneuver around the new and uncharted world of online dating can induce stress just by thinking about it!

There are companies out there that are trying to cultivate this female supportive culture and help women in this area. Undolus is one of those companies. It was started by two female attorneys. Their mission is to create a community of 'women helping women' navigate through the challenges of dating.

Surrounding yourself by women who are going through the same journey that you are and who are empathetic to the challenges you face can make the mountain seem more like a mole hill.

Candice Bushnell wrote in her book Sex And The City:

Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just people to have fun with.”

It certainly appears to be that way to me.

Life is challenging. It can be scary, overwhelming and at times even seemingly impossible. However, with the help, support and care of our girlfriends -- we will make it through!

Just to know there is someone there for you, who will have your back, give you a push when you need it, hold your hand when you are trembling and cry with you when you shed tears of your own. Girlfriends physically and mentally enhance our lives and enrich the everyday experience.

To paraphrase a Roger Caras quote: Our girlfriends may not be our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

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