Most of us are spending a lot of time alone or in front of screens—this much we know. But there’s good news: scientific research suggests we’ve every reason in the world to justify a girls’ trip; it’s all in the name of better health.
Several universities have invested time, money, and research into finding out exactly what happens when we bond with our girlfriends. Having a vibrant social circle can extend our life expectancy, lower our chances of heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline, and even (believe it or not) increase our pain threshold.
In 2016, researchers from the University of Tokyo found out why. Hanging out with our girlfriends, they discovered, increases the production of oxytocin in the brain, the “cuddle hormone” responsible for social bonding.
Pack a bag, grab your girlfriends and get out of town! ✈️💼🚆
In short, friendship makes us feel good!
UC Berkeley scientists elaborated. Elevated oxytocin levels encourage us to become more trusting, generous, and affable, they explained. As we become more attractive personality types by virtue of our friends, we make more of them. It’s a win-win.
Conversely, a lack of social contact has numerous negative ramifications. According to the smart folks at Harvard, people who don’t have strong friendships in their lives have a higher proclivity toward depression. They may also suffer chronic loneliness and cognitive decline later in life.
Could a girls’ trip every now and then eventually save your life?
A study that assessed 309,000 participants’ quality of life gleaned a frightening statistic. A lack of strong social relationships in a person’s life increased their risk of dying prematurely, from all possible causes, by a massive 50 percent.
Having no friends is, quite literally, equally as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Millennials and beyond could run the risk of falling into the social media trap in order to sate their desire for social contact. However, it’s not the same thing. Online interactions, says Purdue University’s communications professor Glenn Sparks, are not as healthy as real-life social interactions.
We need to unplug. “Their ear buds are in and they’re gone into some virtual space,” Sparks observed, speaking to The Washington Post. “We think that really takes a toll on the relational health of any community.”
Sure, it can be hard to keep in touch with girlfriends as people move away and lives move on. But in the name of our mental and physical health, we have a responsibility to ourselves to keep in touch with our nearest and dearest; what better way to do that than by packing your suitcase and starting a new tradition?
There is Live Science research to suggest that distance doesn’t have to break the bonds of friendship, either. And in a series of studies, psychologist William Chopik from Michigan State University even found that friendships between older women (and men) were more strongly indicative of their health and happiness than their relationships with their own family.
“Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being,” Chopik said. “So, it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”
Now, are you tempted to get the girls together for a special weekend?