Friends are the family you choose, and there’s nothing better than connection with friends to lighten your mood. Would any of us be here without having good support and good community? How would life be? I can't even imagine.
I am so grateful for the family and friends that are in my life, and specifically that friend you can call at any hour and you know is gonna be there for you. As my cousin Mary says, “Where there’s family, there’s always space.”
Earlier this year, I called a friend of mine before my daughters’ spring break, and I said, “I’d love to come visit you. And by the way, I want to bring two of my daughters and stay for a week.”
You’ve gotta love a friend who says, “Sure come on over, we’ve got plenty of room!”
As a mom, business owner and your Girlfriend Doctor, I’ve got a lot on my plate. While living Keto-Green can help keep the stress at bay, there are times when the pressure gets to me.
So when I’m feeling weighed down by life, I reach out to my loved ones. I hug my sweet daughters, connect with a long-distance relative, or reach out to my girlfriends. No matter how I reconnect, it makes me feel instantly better.
The first Sunday in August is National Friendship Day, a reminder of why it’s so important, especially for women, to have those close connections. And it’s not just because of the warm and fuzzy feelings – there’s science behind why women crave community.
Friendship gives you a natural oxytocin boost
The long-running Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study found that the more close friends a woman has, the less likely she is to suffer physical ills as she ages.
But why does this help?
Well, it turns out that “tending and befriending” helps us lower our stress while boosting our oxytocin levels.
A landmark study at UCLA found that men will respond to stress by fighting or fleeing, but women will relieve their stress by taking care of children (tending) and social contact with other women (befriending)1.
Good friendships are physically healing
Oxytocin is one of the most protective, anti-aging hormones. It is vital to healing and restoring hormonal balance.
It helps lower stress and anxiety levels, and has positive effects on the cardiovascular system by normalizing blood pressure. It can also improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and even boost wound healing.
So the release of oxytocin, triggered by positive social interactions, can be a natural remedy for a host of health issues.
Here are a few ways you can cultivate better friendships.
Build stronger bonds and boost your oxytocin
Be intentional – hectic schedules can make connecting easier said than done! Because it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, it does take time to maintain friendships. When you make the effort to carve out time intentionally, it becomes easier and more rewarding.
Reach out first – don’t wait until your friends finally reach out to you. If it’s been a while since you heard from an old friend, reach out and see how they’re doing.
Spend quality time – when you meet up with friends or family, take the time to really be there. Hide your phone, put away any distractions, and fully enjoy your time together.
Send a note – it may be old fashioned, but handwriting and sending a card or note in the mail is a heartfelt way to brighten someone’s day.
Tap into community – look for fun events happening in your area – like outdoor movies or yoga classes, or music at a local coffee house. Invite your friends or family to join you, or meet new friends at the event.
Nurture your hobbies – Maybe you love gardening, crafting, or want to take up pickleball. Find a group where you can participate in your favorite activities and meet some new friends.
Volunteer – Giving back to your community is a gift that keeps on giving. You help people and causes that need support, and you get the good feelings and oxytocin boost from doing good work. I created a foundation in honor of my late son, called the Garrett V. Bivens Foundation. Through it, we’ve done some very beautiful things including Teaching Tots to Swim programs and helping to found the House of Hope, a safe home and rehabilitation center for girls who’ve been caught up in human trafficking.
Self-care and good friendships
Bonding with good friends is a great way to enhance your self-care. Sharing belly laughs, warm hugs, and being a light for each other leads to a longer, happier life.
Do you need more oxytocin?Discover your levels of the love and bonding hormone by taking the quiz.
Take the quiz