The Power Of Female Friendships And Why We Need To Cherish Them

There is something extraordinary about the friendship between two women, and if you’ve had the pleasure of being in one, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. We as women are able to build connections with each other that have complex emotional and physiological consequences, all of which are reasons to appreciate your besties a little more this Galentine’s Day. Especially right now, when opportunities to bond and spend time with people are few and far between, it’s important to care for these relationships and understand just how lucky we are to have them. 

Three women talking with flowers Photo by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash In a landmark 2000 UCLA study, researchers found that women undergo a uniquely female biochemical change in response to stress. They suggest that along with the “fight or flight” response, there is a “tend and befriend” instinct that causes women to want to nurture their young and, more relevantly, strengthen friendships with other women. This response is stimulated by the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is also active during childbirth and breastfeeding. The study ultimately concludes that affiliative tendencies among early humans were evolutionarily favorable enough to persist in women today. Leaning into these behaviors can help to alleviate familiar stress indicators, such as nervousness and anxiety. In essence, bonds between women are so advantageous that we experience physical changes in our bodies to encourage us to foster them. 

More intuitively, women are able to provide unparalleled emotional support. I’m sure your boyfriend is great, but female friendships unequivocally make up for the differences in social and biological experiences, communication styles and thought processes. Those late-night, hours-long talks with your besties, full of inside jokes and catharsis, may be more beneficial for your mental health than you think. Female friendships tend to exist on a different level of relatability, honesty and empathy, making the women in your life the best people to confide in, cry to and have a laugh with. 

Two girls embracing from behind Photo by Ramil Ugot from Pexels Recently, these relationships have become more important than ever. A paper by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry explains how the social isolation brought about by coronavirus protocols has exacerbated depression and anxiety in young people, causing a widespread deterioration of mental health. It’s no surprise that friends can help us feel emotionally less alone, despite physical separation. Keeping in touch with friends, or making new friends entirely, is difficult to do virtually, so make sure to appreciate the people in your circle and to keep putting in the effort to nurture those friendships. 

Lastly, we as women need to stick together. Instead of judging or competing with each other, we should be lifting one another up. The sense of empowerment and solidarity in female friendships is a force unmatched, but only if we do it right. Take the time to listen to your friends, help them when they’re struggling and provide a safe space for them to express themselves freely, because there are too few places in society for them to do so. Female friendship is often trivialized in the media and portrayed as something superficial, but those bonds run deep and are powerful in boosting emotional well-being, self-confidence and overall happiness. 

Four women Dancing Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels While all friendships are lovely, the experiences and interests we share as women fortify the connections we have with one another. They are strong enough to support us through whatever struggles we may be going through, which is something we can all be grateful for. This Galentine’s season, or any time you want, really,  go call up a girlfriend, tell them you love them, and send extra virtual hugs their way.