When was the last time you hung out with your girlfriends? If it’s been a while, it might be time to stop making excuses, set your to-do list aside and head out with your besties.
According to a new study conducted by the University of Oxford, hanging out with the girls is actually good for you!
The study, spearheaded by renowned psychologist Robin Dunbar, found that women who hang out with four of their best friends at least twice a week and “do things” will achieve greater happiness in all aspects of their lives as well as improved overall health and well-being.
The study listed “things” as anything from drinking beer (break out the wine, ladies) and gossiping to talking about their rivals (a favored topic) and just hanging out. In fact, any activity that gets women socializing, laughing, sharing and supporting one another can improve their overall health.
The health benefits include faster recovery times from illnesses, a heightened immune system, a feeling of greater generosity and even reduced anxiety.
Laugh Your Way to Better Health
In an interview with Scientific American, Robin Dunbar talked about how even simple activities associated with friendships can have an impact on our happiness and health: “Laughing together, jogging together, dancing together, singing together, telling emotionally wrenching stories, going to see weepy films – these activities buffer the body biochemically and immunologically against the kinds of coughs and colds of everyday life.”
The study also found that women reap the biggest benefits with their friends when they laugh with each other including tossing out funny comments, joking around, sharing funny stories and talking about things that make them laugh.
It also found that the size of your friend group matters, too. In a smaller group, ideally around four friends, funny situations will generate the necessary endorphins for happiness and wellbeing, whereas, in larger groups, it’s less probable to get the same benefits.
Despite the benefits friend time offers, the study found that only two out of five women actually have the time to go out with friends once a week and oftentimes it becomes even more difficult if they have kids.
When Friends Take a Back Seat to, Well… Everything Else
The idea of hanging out with four of your besties sounds great in theory, but for many women, developing new friendships or keeping up with existing ones can be challenging. All too often friendships take a back seat to life’s everyday challenges and responsibilities including work, parenthood and caring for aging parents.
In some cases, the lack of interaction with friends has less to do with interferences in your life and more to do with the fact that you’re simply too tired to hang out with friends, you’ve outgrown friends due to changes in your life or interests, or because your kids are growing up and you’re simply not as involved with other parents as you once were.
Quality Counts More than Quantity
Despite the effort it takes to hold onto existing friendships or to put yourself out there and make new friends, it’s still an investment worthwhile. Sure, it would be great to have a group of girls to hang with, but quality counts far more than quantity.
According to an article published by Mayo Clinic, “Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health,” even one or two good friends can be good for your health.
A few truly close friends you can count on to be there for you through thick or thin, and who will help you celebrate the good times and have your back during tough times can make all the difference in the world in our lives.
Having a couple of close girlfriends can increase your sense of belonging and purpose, improve your self-confidence and self-worth, help you cope with traumas like divorce, loss of a job or the death of a loved one, encourage you to make smart and healthy decisions in your life and help you break bad habits. And, most women will admit that having those friend relationships makes them better wives, better moms, better sisters, better everything!
Finding Your Tribe
Of course, finding new friends is sometimes easier said than done. The key is to open the door to new friendship opportunities by trying something new like volunteering at your child’s school or an organization you’re passionate about, joining a club, taking a class, joining a gym (get healthy and meet new friends) or getting involved at your church.
If there is someone you’ve enjoyed talking with in the past, don’t be shy. Extend an invitation for coffee or lunch. Invite a group of ladies over (even if you’ve lost touch) or organize a mom’s night out.
Just remember to cast your net wide (as they say), broaden your efforts and don’t limit yourself to one outlet to meet new friends. The broader your efforts, the greater the likelihood that you ’ll meet a few new friends. Above all, keep a positive attitude. Keep in mind too that if you’re lonely and in a need of a few friends, you’re not alone. In fact, 27 percent of Americans feel they don’t belong to a friend group.
You may not become lifelong friends with everyone you meet and you may not find that “perfect” friend, but remember, friends come in all shapes and sizes and not all friends are created equal. One friend might be your travel buddy, another one might be your confidante and yet another might be the one you grab lunch with when you’re in need of a good laugh.
So, go ahead! Give your friend a call! Make plans to meet for coffee, go out to lunch at your favorite café’ or grab drinks and appetizers at the new restaurant in town. Just venture out, laugh and go “do things.” You’ll be happier and healthy because of it!