Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Is THIS What Your Female Friendships Are Lacking? Could This Be How to Lower Stress & Even Extend Your Lifespan?!

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It sounds too good to be true: there’s an easy, fun activity that has the power to lower your stress levels and potentially even add months or years to your life. Could female friendships really be this powerful? And could this be a way to strengthen them?

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Yes, yes, it’s wonderful to have friends so you have someone to swap memes and cute dog pics with, but, the more research that is done on the power of close female friendships, the more we discover how life-changing they really can be.

Studies have found that interacting with our gal pals reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increases serotonin (the neurotransmitter that lowers stress, helps to fight depression and creates a general feeling of well-being). 

Hell, female friendships could even be a factor as to why we live longer! A piece of research done by UCLA concluded that “women more reliably turn to their social contacts in times of stress, responses that are . . . protective of health and longevity. The fact that men may be somewhat more likely to cope with stress via fight or flight and women to cope with stress via tend and befriend may help to explain the worldwide gender gap in mortality.”

That led some experts to recommend spending time with friends twice a week.

But, as we’ve discussed here on Capsule before, as an adult, it isn’t always particularly easy to make new friends, and, as Jane Fonda taught us, friendships do require a bit of work.

In a recent interview, Jane – who at 85, has seen a lot! – told CBS Sunday Morning that when it comes to female friendships, “you have to be intentional. I never used to be intentional… you have to pursue people you want to be friends with. You have to say ‘I’m intentionally wanting to be your friend.’ It works – people hear that, and they stick around.”

We’re all time poor, so being intentional – and trying to meet up twice a week – can be a biiiig ask. Have you recently tried to organise a date/time to catch up with a group of more than three friends? It feels like planning the MET Gala, the coordination is so intense.

So, while we’re striving to make plans to meet up, are we missing the joy of being spontaneous? Sure, sending out a group text saying, ‘right, let’s get dinner together, right now!’ isn’t likely to get you the dream result, but there are SO many ways to up your friend-time, with a bit of spontaneity. 

Here are some ideas!

Spontaneous communication moments

Could look like:

  • An out of the blue text to say you were just thinking about them. Maybe it’s followed up with a ‘I was just thinking about you and wondering how things are going with your MIL/your brother/finding a dress for the wedding.’ WHO doesn’t love to know that someone cares about them and have been thinking of them?!? It’s definitely a warm fuzzy moment!
  • Just saw a meme that reminded you of them? Tag them in!
  • Actually picking up the phone and dialling a friend to check in. Remember how we used to do this? How we’d get home from school, after spending all day with our pals, drop our schoolbag on the floor, grab some snacks and then pick up the landline and call those friends to talk for hours (or until someone started using the dial-up internet and the screeching sound made us give in and hang up). How long has it been since you just gave a friend an actual call? 

Should never look like:

  • A call pre-8am or post-9.30pm. I dunno about you guys, but after about my 30th birthday, I stopped expecting a late night call to be a drunk friend wanting me to come out, and instead started assuming that someone is injured/dead/divorcing.
  • A VIDEO CALL. Never surprise someone with a video call. Never. 

Spontaneous IRL moments

Could look like:

  • Know a friend who works near-ish to you? Send them a message! ‘Hey! The sun is shining, so I was thinking of eating my lunch down in the park. Wanna join?’ 
  • Know a friend going through a hard time? A ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!’ text is nice, but when you’re struggling – whether it’s with a sudden death of a loved one, a new baby or a bad break-up, it can be difficult to actually work out what you do need help with and what is a reasonable ask of someone. Sometimes it’s easiest to offer some suggestions of help! Here’s a great text in these circumstances:

‘Hi! I am heading out today and thinking of you and so I would like to do something for you today. I have thought of these options – which would suit you? 

  1. I come take your dog for a walk
  2. I drop off dinner on your doorstep (I am making chicken lasagne for dinner, so no sweat to make a double batch!)
  3. While I go to the grocery store I pick up things you need
  4. I come watch a bad movie with you (I will bring treats)
  • Know a friend with a baby? Make a plan! Having a baby at home can be an extremely isolating feeling. When I’ve been housebound with a baby and feeling a bit lonely, ironically, one thing that has been stressful is trying to coordinate plans to meet up with friends. I never know if the baby’s awake windows are going to work out right, so I worry about cancelling AGAIN or getting the timing wrong and having a screaming baby. Sometimes spontaneity can be your best friend here!

Here’s a perfect text I received from a friend: ‘Hey! There is a new Starbucks flavour I wanna try! I’m going to head to the one that’s kinda near your house today. I’ll be able to go anytime between 10am-1pm. If the little guy’s naps work out, do you wanna come join me? I’ll just need 15mins notice. Otherwise let’s see each other another day soon!’

I loved this message because there was A) no pressure. B) plans were so flexible, timing wise. C) there was coffee.

Should never look like:

  • Turning up at someone’s doorstep, unannounced. ALWAYS TEXT FIRST. Unless there has been an emergency and someone is injured/dead/divorcing OR you have already established an open-door policy with your friend. Then, please go ahead. 
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