By Kerri Zane
Every so often I
receive one of those emails that are passed from woman to
woman about the importance of girlfriends. They are so
poetic and poignant. I love them. I know there is a long
routing list of which I am one of dozens, but I like being
included. Friends are such a cherished part of my life and
the words expressed in the content of the passages resonate
to my core. We ladies would be lost without our girlfriends!
Friends help us
pick up the pieces after an ugly (or not so ugly) break-up,
they are our support when our children confuse us, a
sounding board for just about every situation that comes
across our path and if that weren?t enough they are our most
trusted fashion advisors. My best friend Sue often reminds
me, ?friends tell us what we need to hear not what we want
to hear.? She never passes judgment, always a sympathetic
ear and tells me like it is.
The other day I
was having lunch with one of my other best friends, my
90-year-old mom. I asked her what brought her the most
happiness in her life. Without a second thought, she
proclaimed, ?my friends! They are always there for me.
They help me through thick and thin, I don?t know where I?d
be without them.?
No doubt friends
are the key to a fulfilling life. We?ve known it forever.
Now researchers are finding another reason to keep friends
close. There is scientific evidence that friendships
and being a part of a social network can lower blood
pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Staying in touch with friends can keep depression at bay and
keep us young. A Harvard Nurses Health Study found that the
more friends a woman had the less likely they were to be
physically incapacitated, as they grew older.
Why do women love
sharing, discussing and dissecting so much? It appears that
sharing with friends is hard wired in our brains. Stress
from jobs, challenging relationships and even traffic can
trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone which increases
blood pressure, blood sugar and reduces immune responses.
Luckily, our brains have a built in mechanism to counter the
harmful affects of cortisol, called oxytocin. Intense
pressure for women triggers the release of oxytocin, or the
so called calming hormone. A number of activities increase
the output of oxytocin, including my favorite activity,
exercise, along with a few other favs - yoga, massage,
meditation, caring for a pet and you guessed it hanging out
with friends. All these activities including companionship
leads to the release of more oxytocin creating an increased
sense of well being. Combine that with exercise and you?ve
got a double dose of zen. Oxytocin is a unique
neurochemical, difficult to replicate synthetically, but the
more we make with the above mentioned activities the
stronger our body and mind responds to it. The stress
relieving aspect of friendship and fitness can play a big
role in helping women stay healthy and far better than a
medicine cabinet full of drugs.
Try spending at
least an hour a week with your friends walking and chatting,
it can lead to better health and will definitely be a ton of