The Power of Female Friendship for Mental Health
"Female Friendships and the Science Behind Them: The "Tend and Befriend" Response.
As someone who grew up with many male friends, I can attest that something about female friendships hits differently. When shit hits the fan, it's noticeable that I reach for the phone and dial a female friend's number. And there's scientific evidence to back up why that is.
We're all familiar with the "Fight or Flight" response; it's our primal instinct to run from a lion. However, women can react differently to stress, with a response called "Tend and Befriend." This response releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and social connection, instead of the adrenaline-induced run for the hills. It calms us down and can improve mental health.
Research has shown that having strong relationships with close friends can significantly lower our stress levels, reduce depression and improve our mental health. So, girl gang - how can we engage in "Tend and Befriend" with our female friends?
- Please pick up the phone, but make it a two-way conversation. Solid female friendships thrive with mutual support, not one-sided toxic friendship venting. Listen to your friend's struggles. Just listen in the darkness, sister.
- Be honest. "I'm fine" is a line we tell our young girl selves and others when we justify loneliness. But tapping into our authentic self and vulnerability can deepen our relationships and foster stronger connections.
- Prioritize in-person. We're all "so busy" these days, but really? Spending time with women friends is not only an investment; it can make life fun. From sharing a social media meme to a drunken weekend getaway, spending time with friends can help us cope with real-life stress and find much-needed joy.
Understanding the science behind female friendships allows us to prioritize and nurture these relationships for our mental and emotional benefit. Let's normalize the power of "Tend and Befriend" and cultivate strong relationships with our girl gang.