Last month we wrote a story about psychologist recommended “mom-cations”. And the reception was mixed; some women felt it was selfish to enjoy any time away from the family ever, with no exceptions and others recalled feeling genuinely refreshed after one (or really wanted the chance to experience one). But whatever your personal feelings are, studies show that women need time with their friends. Even TWICE A WEEK!
According to the new study, done by a group of researchers from the University of Oxford, hanging out with friends actually has health benefits like faster recovery time from illness, a stronger immune system, a decrease in anxiety levels, and increased generosity levels! But researchers also noted certain circumstances to best take advantage of those benefits:1
- women interact best by making funny comments, joking, and talking about things that make them laugh
- size of the group is a big factor: laughter in small groups is feasible but when the group is bigger than 5 people, funny situations that generate the necessary endorphins for happiness and wellbeing are less probable. Researchers recommended a group with a maximum of four friends.
The team also noted that only 2 out of 5 women actually go out with their girlfriends once a week and that number was even smaller if they had a family to care for. The investigation also looked at the “quality of interactions with friends, according to the number of people and time spent”1 and found that, on average, women reserve a little less than half their available time to nurture close friendships. But according to Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT (who was not a part of this study) “Research shows that women, [possibly] more than men, need to maintain those connections. It increases serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone.”
“Studies at Stanford seem to confirm this, as did a UCLA study showing that in times of stress, women don’t just experience the drive toward fight or flight — they also release oxytocin. This hormonal surge can compel women to ‘tend and befriend,’ a.k.a., to protect their kids (if they have them), but also to connect with other women.
Maintaining those bonds becomes even more important as we grow older, according to Dr. Bash. ‘We get busier, with more responsibilities,’ she says. ‘It makes us feel nurtured and validated to hang out with friends we can be totally ourselves [with], minus the outside pressures.’”1
There is no doubt that women have very stressful lives and many feel overwhelming guilt when they attempt to take any time for themselves. But studies show it’s a necessity. As is investing in friendships.
No one is suggesting “Moms Gone Wild” but it does seem that for your health, friends and a simple activity are good for both the body and mind.