The Power of Female Friendships

It’s almost Thanksgiving — a time to reflect on the many things you are grateful for, on this day and always. I’m especially grateful for girlfriends. I’ve always had girlfriends. My mother did too and like many things, she set a good example.

There are a lot of health benefits to maintaining and making new girlfriends. I never take them for granted, and try to get together with them as often as possible. I’m convinced that there is a strong correlation between having them and my health and well- being.

Girlfriends increase my sense of belonging, boost my happiness and reduce my stress. No surprise there. However, a strong social network also reduces the risk of depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass, or BMI. And since women tend to live longer than men, the girlfriends you make and maintain today can add quality of life now and down the road.

But it’s not always easy to develop or maintain friendships as we get older. Life is busy with work, spouses, caring for children, grandchildren and aging parents. You may have grown apart with longtime friends due to changes in your lives, interests and lack of time. Or perhaps you have moved to a new town and haven’t found a good way to meet people that can turn into friendships.

Yes, like a lot of things, developing and maintaining friendships take effort. However, the enjoyment and comfort girlfriends provide are worth it. And while you want to have a network of diverse friends, the quality of a few close friends who are there for you through thick and thin are critical for a happy and healthy life.

So if you’ve been busy and lost touch with a longtime friend, reach out to her soon and schedule coffee or a meal. If someone has reached out to you, be sure to reach back and reconnect. If you are looking to make new friends, attend community events, volunteer, or take up a new interest.

Research suggests that using social media is a good way to maintain connections and relieve loneliness. However, it does not translate into closer relationships. It seems as though there is no substitute for voice-to-voice and face-to-face contact to improve the quality of a friendship that leads to better health.

So, what better time to reach out by phone and let a girlfriend know you have been thinking about her or set a date to get together than during the holiday season?

Lisa Burbage

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