A SINGULAR LIFE
By ASHA GILL
There are many things no one tells you when you are growing up. Most of them are definitely things you will need to find out for yourself, some should be shared to help you “understand” life a little better, and then there are those which should be added to the “life skills” list.
One such topic should be “friendship.”
Yes, yes, we all know that having at least one friend makes life easier, it’s a social world after all. We also understand the many benefits of having friends and how this is a part of life that most of us seem to have taken for granted.
We have all been guilty of not keeping the circle of friends close, tight and healthy. Falling in love, starting a new job, having kids, the list is endless. The reasons why we let things slide with our friends are endless, too.
True friends should give you a dose of grief for ousting them out of your way for a bit. The good ones allow you to take off from where you left them. The great mates will bully their way back in with an implicit comprehension that you actually need them now more than ever.
Real friends have an understanding that life has a habit of taking over and that the demands of the daily grind can consume you. Overwhelm you. So they give you a breather and then bug you until you relent and open up again.
However, in light of recent research, neglecting our “friendships” or not cultivating them properly from the beginning can have critical implications.
Last week I received an email from one of my mum’s best friends. It was all about the power of female friendships. Nowhere in that email was the slightest bit of “mush” to be found.
Nope, it was actually a real eye-opener. Which led me on to some research.
It seems that what it claims makes real sense. For example, apparently one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman, whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health is to cultivate and nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.
Why? Simply put, it is the mostly female ability to talk, open up, share, communicate and empathise amongst other things. Women really “talk” about their feelings, men, not so much.
This connection we make with each other is a support community, not for social fun’s sake, but in order to actually thrive.
I found this article in the New York Times titled “What are friends for? A longer life”; I have lifted two paragraphs for you in the hope that you go on to read it in its entirety.
“In 2006, a study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.
“Bella DePaulo, a visiting psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose work focuses on single people and friendships, notes that in many studies, friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member. In the study of nurses with breast cancer, having a spouse wasn’t associated with survival.”
The thing is, research is finding that women connect with each other differently than how they connect with men. They provide support systems that help each other in times of stress, difficulties and major life-changing circumstances as well as the good times. Literally, having deep friendships can prolong your life.
Apparently, “girlfriend” time actually fires up the old brain and helps create more serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and creates a feeling of well-being. This was said to have been taught in a lecture at Stanford University in the United States under a series on the mind and body connection.
Whether this was actually said by the head of psychiatry at Standford or not, the fact remains that hanging out with your friends is as important as watching your salt intake or going to the gym. It is not a waste of time by any means.
Real, proper connective friendship affects your heart, mind and body in a really positive way.
I must take this moment to explain that this is not a Mars vs Venus “hoorah.”
Actually, quite the opposite. I do not believe for one minute that men will die earlier and lonelier than women just because women know how to “bond,” “connect” or “nurture.” In fact, up until a certain age, we see no difference in terms of how feelings are articulated with respect to gender. Character is more influential in how sharing happens. Until, that is, the environment starts teaching otherwise.
With this in mind I will be teaching these life skills to the Little Man in the hope that he continues to always be open, share his thoughts and feelings, and live as long as he can. If my great male friends are anything to go by, they are sure to outlive me!
Long live friendship!
Asha Gill put her globetrotting life on hold to focus on the little man in her life and gain a singular perspective on the world. You can tune in to Asha’s show Eat, Love, Play on Capital FM 88.9, Mondays to Fridays, 10am-1pm. She’s always looking for stories to tell and ideas to share, so send her an email at email@example.com.