Whether your best buds are school pals, your very own Carrie Bradshaw crew, or current contemporaries — maintaining a #girlsquad should rate way high up on your list.
“But I’m exhausted, soooo busy, too busy to get together!” you say?
You may want to reconsider. …
Reason 1: Your Physical Health
Not only do deep female friendships provide the obvious benefit of sharing life — messy, marvelous and everything in between — with those who really “get” you. But, your close friends might literally save your life.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, women with early stage breast cancer were four times more likely to die from cancer if they didn’t have very many friends. Those with a larger group of friends with early stage breast cancer had a much better survival rate.
According to Douglas Nemecek, MD, Cigna chief medical officer for behavioral health, “Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.”
Reason 2: Your Mental Health
Strong friendships are a critical aspect of emotional wellbeing and have been shown to decrease anxiety and depression.
But, those friendships need to happen in real time, not virtually. In fact, “the social media paradox” is a term coined by psychologists to describe how social media has allowed us to become more connected to other people than at any time in history. And yet, many Americans report feeling more lonely and isolated than ever.
Erlene Rosowsky, PsyD, a professor at William James College and the Director of the Alliance for Aging, explains why real versus virtual connections with friends are so important. “Our female friendships really are our primary relationships, not just an add on. The literature is replete with the importance and benefits of intimate friendship relationships where there is shared mutual self-disclosure over time. As we go through our 30s, 40s and 50s, balancing marriage, children, work and other interests, it’s important to make friendships a priority.”
Reason 3: When it Comes to Communication, Men Really Are From Mars
Females, generally, communicate with logistics and emotions, empathy, listening as well as problem solving. Men lean towards the latter. Lots of times it’s just easier to vent to a close girlfriend who can commiserate, offer a “been there done that” perspective, or (gently) urge action to snap you out of a brain rut and back into your better-thinking and better-feeling self.
“Non-sexual affection is important to women,” says Rosowsky. “In their ability to share common language and mirror similar episodes in personal histories, there’s shared intimacy and trust in disclosing vulnerabilities to another true friend who can sit with you while you slog through the fact that you know you aren’t terrific all the time.”
Reason 4: Women Help Women Succeed
Building bonds with women at work and within your profession is also important for motivation, job satisfaction, mentorship (both being a mentor and having one), and protection against harassment. Given that 75 percent of women face retaliation of some sort when they come forward about harassment, having other women to stand with you can help you feel less alone.
Reason 5: True Friendships Get Better with Age
Not all friendships survive the ravages of time and circumstance. But like a fine wine, those that do, they tend to age well. No matter how far bonds bend, they manage to bounce back before they break.
“Recent research actually tells us that the average female friendship lasts 16 years, which is 6 years longer than the average romantic relationship,” says Psychologist Breanna Jayne Sada. “Once we turn 55, our friendships, on average, last 23 years.”
Reason 6: New Friends Widen Our Perspective
Rosowsky agrees, “Longterm friends are our fellow travelers, but it’s also important to nurture new friendships with those in different age groups to get out of your own wheelhouse, to grow and challenge your perspective. The healthiest thing is to stretch a little bit and take the energy and time to make a new friend who’s not like you.”
Reason 7: Your Kids Will Fly the Coop, as Might Your Spouse
The first is a definite, and marriage is still a 50-50 gamble, with more couples calling it quits after 30 or more years together. The girl squad you nurture might just end up being your Golden Girl gang.
Even if you are blessed with a honey who lasts, Rosowsky emphasizes how special women’s friendships are. “I’ve been very moved about the depth of bereavement that follows the loss of a long-time friend and how it can drastically change the structure of a marriage as the woman turns to her husband to make up for what a friend had provided,” she says.
Do whatever it takes to make sure your social-feed gal pals are for real and for keeps.