Research has shown that a large part of a healthy, long life is about social connections and friends. This is a particularly important part of women’s mental health.
According to a study done by two researchers from the University of California Riverside, there are six predictors of self esteem. They are: feeling optimistic, rather than hopeless, having one’s needs fulfilled, satisfaction with your level of education, a sense of self worth, not suffering from pain and finally, satisfaction from friends.
So think about it —are you a girlfriend’s girl? Do you make yourself available to making new friends and nurturing established friendships with other women?
Friends, and other loved ones offer us a sense of community where we feel nurtured, safe, understood and encouraged. Friendships also offer us a chance to tend and offer these qualities to others. Shelley Taylor, the author of a book titled, “The Tending Instinct”, writes that the need for women to have this sort of community is actually biological. Women are hard wired to be more social, less competitive, better communicators and more collaborative.
Below are two of the interesting conclusions about women’s friendships in Taylor’s book.
• Women who have healthy, strong ties with other females live longer than those without them. Research has also proven that women who don’t have supportive friendships have lower immunity levels, more depression and more stress.
• Women’s stress levels decrease when they spend time with friends. It seems women and men react differently to stress biochemically. We don’t have the same fight/flight instinct as men. According to Taylor, women have the need to “tend and befriend”, meaning we want and need nurturing when we feel strain. The UCLA School of medicine did a study and discovered that we emit the hormone oxytocin when we’re spending time with our girlfriends. University of San Francisco researchers have found that oxytocin is the hormone that researchers are contributing to helping to maintain personal relationships and bonding.
Women feel more beautiful when they are in a relationship with others. Dove surveyed 3,000 women for their Campaign For Real Beauty and found that “a great majority expressed that they feel most secure with their beauty when they are in a meaningful relationship with someone, whether it be friend, family member or spouse.”
Now that we know how powerful and health inducing female friendships are, how do we recognize and build meaningful, high quality friendships and deflect the damaging, draining ones?
There are relationships that provide you with fuel and relationships that drain you, according to Cheryl Richardson, author and certified life coach. Richardson says that relationships that fuel you are proactive, honest, appreciative, communicative, accountable and attentive. These are the friends that give you feedback without judgment, cheerleading without criticism, schedule time with you and support your dreams. These are the gals that you feel a “soulful” connection with. They are family to you and offer a safe place to fall as well as a joyful place to celebrate.
Fueling relationships help you to become a better person because they are inspiring and motivating. These gals have your back.
Conversely, friendships that drain you are typically one-sided. These so-called friends are folks we have all encountered and sometimes keep in our lives because we’ve known them since childhood or they’re family friends. Bottom line –they keep you down and exhausted.
These are the women who constantly complain about their lives and blame others for their circumstances. They are critical of you and others. They wield their advice freely and often, though their life is typically in shambles. Their favorite conversation is of the gossip variety, and they are never willing to share any intimate details about themselves. They are the women who are only available when they need you, not when you need them. They are champions of self doubt, criticism, and negative babbling.
You find yourself constantly nurturing them, placating their misguided judgment and fumbles. You feel like you are always having to make right in their lives everything that they say has gone wrong. You never get the love, the listener, the cheering –or the fun. You imagine ways to end the friendship, but are never sure just how.
Drop these gals immediately. They can’t and won’t support you and you’ll grow resentful and weary of even taking a phone call from them.
Ladies, choose your friends wisely and deliberately. Richardson says building this “soulful community” should be a committed process –almost like a marketing plan for friendship. It may sound a bit calculated, but getting specific about the qualities that you want in a friend is sort of like getting specific about the qualities you want in a partner. In the end, it requires us to reach out, stretch, grow, inspire and motivate. All good things, right?