The hustle and grind can make you feel great when you love what you do. And family time is key for many people. A little “me” time is crucial too in order to maintain your mental health. But the research showing that a close group of girlfriends is a key element of a long, happy life is piling up.
The Harvard Women’s Health blog reported that social connections “not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking.”
It turns out that people with better relationships are measurably happier, have fewer health issues, and even live longer lives.
And they measured the opposite side of the spectrum as well. Those reporting a lack of positive social ties were more likely to experience episodes of depression, late-life cognitive decline, and shorter lifespans. How does this work? Well, there are both biological and behavioral factors at play here. A lack of connection to others can create harmful levels of stress. This, in turn, can negatively affect your arteries, gut function, insulin resistance, and immune system.
And if you needed more proof that there is at least a strong correlation here, psychologists have found that they can actually predict how strong and large someone’s social circle is by measuring their tolerance to pain.
So friendships and strong relationships don’t just make us feel good in the moment, they help us tolerate the physically painful moments of our lives!
There’s also recent evidence that enjoying time with friends can increase the production of a hormone in your body called oxytocin, which actually helps your brain communicate feelings of happiness and belonging. The more oxytocin people have in their bodies, the more trusting, generous, and friendly they tend to be. So it’s a big, happy cycle. The more you spend time with friends, the better you are at being a friend, and the more people want to spend time with you.
Of course, this isn’t great news for those who have trouble making friends, either because of their shyness, schedules, familial obligations, or distance. Social media makes it a bit easier to maintain relationships, but you’re going to have to get out and about and put in some face time with people you feel good around to really reap the health benefits of friendships.
According to psychologist William Chopik from Michigan State University:
“Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So, it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”
This sounds like a great excuse for a girl’s trip!
In fact, Forbes reports that women who take their vacation time are less tense, depressed, and tired, and even reported being happier with their spouse.
And travel is key, not just taking a day off to run your errands.
Women who don’t get out and see the world (even if it’s just another part of your city) have a higher risk of heart disease and death from heart disease. (The results were similar for men, but women tended to benefit more from traveling and doing so with close friends.)
While you might not be able to easily pry yourself loose from parental or spousal obligations, it’s worth noting that women who took trips with close friends were not only happier in general, but happier with their home and family lives as well.
So it might be time to sit your spouse down and tell them you need some time away with your closest pals, even just an overnight trip or a weekend away. Your life might depend on it!
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