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The science behind female friendships

The science behind female friendships

Your girl-friends may be able to assist you in releasing more oxytocin, according to science

“Research reveals that women, perhaps even more than men, require these connections to be maintained. According to Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT, “it enhances serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone.” Stanford studies seem to back this up, as does a UCLA study that found that when women are stressed, they don’t just feel the need to fight or flee; they also release oxytocin. This hormonal surge can push women to “tend and befriend,” or protect their children (if they have them) while also connecting with other women.

According to Doctor Bash, maintaining those ties becomes even more vital as we get older. “We’re getting busier and have more duties,” she explains. “Hanging out with friends with whom we can be completely ourselves [without extraneous pressures] makes us feel nurtured and validated.”

That is unmistakably true in the case of Londoner Charlotte Annesley, 29, who says her buddies offer her “no judgments,” simply a kind of honest, no-holds-barred support she can’t get anyplace else. “With guys or my family, I have to be careful not to insult them or make them uncomfortable. However, my girlfriends will always tell me the truth,” she explains.

Samantha Rush, 25, from Devon, finds solace in the easy acceptance she receives from her “girl-friends” of university mates. Despite the fact that they’ve spread throughout the country since graduation, they make time to meet together at least a few times a year, and their bond hasn’t weakened.

“I’ve never felt as capable of being myself as I do when I’m around these women,” Samantha writes in an email. “It’s wonderful to know that everywhere I go in the globe, there are ladies who actually know, love, and support me.” It’s a sense of security I’ve never experienced before, not even with my family.”

Though it might sound cliché, for many single women like me, friends truly do grow closer than family. You might spend more time with them or confide in them. As a long-term singleton without many of the conventional adult trappings (no husband or kids, no 9-5 office job), I’ve frequently turned to my female friends for the companionship and emotional sustenance that others find in their relationships and children.

 

 

Is it possible for girlfriends to alleviate emotions of loneliness?

While it wasn’t an intentional decision on my part (I’d still like to find a partner), I’m grateful for the strong friendships I have. Especially since studies have consistently proven that loneliness can be fatal in recent years. The idea of being alone, rather than the actual reality of how many relationships someone has, causes the most harm, according to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry. This “pathological loneliness,” which has been linked to a number of health issues, is becoming more prevalent.

There are numerous reasons for our increased social isolation, but technology, social media, and the dangers of social comparison all play a role.

“Even 10 years ago, people would walk out to a coffee shop and actually talk to others,” Doctor Bash recalls. “In the United Kingdom today, the pandemic has just added to this sense of isolation.”

With social media, technology, and texting many feel more alone. They’re glued to continuously seeing what everyone else is doing, even if they’re not physically alone.”

The tension between our simultaneous hyperconnectedness, the ability to check in on faraway friends at any time, and many peoples’ growing sense of emotional alienation make maintaining real-life, face-to-face friendships even more important.

“We have to prioritise those friendships,” Doctor Bash states. “Plan girl’s nights and lunches with your friends!” Prepare ahead of time.”

Instead of texting or conversing on Facebook, Bash recommends speaking on the phone and having real interactions. That isn’t to say that the Internet can’t be used to help you form or maintain friendships. Many women, on the other hand, form significant friendships through Facebook groups, neighbourhood community forums, and even Tinder-style applications like Hey Vina and Peanut.

Samantha Rush claims that a Devon-based blog of women who frequently check-in by email and WhatsApp, as well as meeting up in person to arrange events, is one of her most important support systems. Rush only knows most of these women from behind a screen because she no longer lives in Devon.

“Though I can’t speak to this [personally] as a cis white woman,” she continues, “I know comparable online communities have been incredibly useful for minorities and lesbian persons… as ‘girl-friends’ when solidarity might not otherwise be available.”

 

Do you really need #girl-friends at the end of the day?

Of course, not every friendship is the same, and while it would be fantastic if every woman in the UK had a genuine girl group of friends to confide in, holiday with, and plot world dominance with, everyone is unique.

A “girl-friend group” isn’t necessary or desirable for every woman.

For some women, a small group of close friends is sufficient. “My ‘friendship group’ is small,” Claire S., 47, of Edinborough, comments. These are the two units I have: My two school best mates and an ex-colleague.”

It doesn’t matter how you discover your people; what counts is that you do, or at least attempt. “Be proactive,” advises Dr Bash. “Making that a priority is a must.” And, if you’re unhappy with the amount or quality of friendships in your life right now, it’s not too late to change that.

“We all have acquaintances with whom we’d like to be better friends. “We can help if we make the first move and invite them to lunch or coffee,” Doctor Bash explains.

You can, of course, get out there and try new things. Take classes, join a group or a club, and go to exciting local events on your own. Bash said, “It’s about placing yourself in a setting where you’ll be engaging with others.”

And don’t let minor disagreements keep you from reaching out to an old buddy with whom you may have had a strained relationship. “Even if we’re in a different position,” Doctor Bash says, “we need to strive to be patient and empathic with our friends.” Perhaps your friend has a new kid and isn’t as available; perhaps you’re annoyed. However, try to stay available and sympathetic. We’ll come back together eventually, even if we go through separate phases.”