Dear Oprah,

Oprah

On your show last week you mentioned that we women need to better support each other. I agree. We do and that’s not all. We need to better befriend each other. It’s more than support, it’s a commonality and community that bonds us to each other so that we naturally look out for each other and help each other, even when there is nothing in it for us. It’s a special, unique relationship that causes us to ‘tend’ to each other, cheer the other on and help them reach their dreams.

Oprah – you get this, obviously. Your friendship with Gayle is well documented and confirms that having close, sister-like friends is not only advantageous and fun, but actually vital. We need girlfriends for our mental, and often spiritual, relational, emotional and even physical health. Studies prove this. Just a few facts:

·When placed in stressful situations, men respond with ‘fight or flight.’ Women choose to ‘tend and befriend’ – we want to take care of our young and to be with our friends. Part of our DNA, this response goes all the way into the animal world with the prairie vole, a monogomous rodent. When the males are stressed, they run to their female partner. When the female voles are put in a stressful situation, they retreat to the females with whom they were raised. It’s part of our DNA. (From “The Tending Instinct,” by Shelley E. Taylor.)

·We all know that friendship can make us happier, but now we know that friendship can make us healthier. Studies have found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol, major risk factors for heart disease. A landmark UCLA study found that when a woman engages in “tending and befriending,” her body, unlike a man’s, releases more oxytocin, a chemical that counters stress and produces a calming effect. From the famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School, researchers concluded that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight. “There’s no doubt,” says Dr. Klein, “that friends are helping us live longer.” National Women’s Friendship Month is a great opportunity to celebrate these important friendships and to educate women about health issues. (from Kappa Delta’s facts on National Women’s Friendship Day)

·”The Tending Instinct” also documented how children look to women for tending, men look to women for tending, and women look to women for tending. So, it there are so many physical and emotional benefits for women due to friendships, does that demonstrated that we can take care of our community when we take care of the women – and that friendships are a key part of that equation.

·However, a nationwide survey released June 2006 found a sharp decline in friendships. Study co-author Lynn Smith-Lovin,a sociologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said, “From a social point of view, it means you’ve got more people isolated.” Weakening bonds of friendship can have far-reaching effects. Among them: fewer people to turn to for help in crises like Hurricane Katrina, fewer watchdogs to deter neighborhood crime and fewer participants in community groups. (Also from Kappa Delta facts.)

·Women who form community together (become friends) are more concerned and compassionate about the well-being of the other. I traveled to South Africa in 2006 and met several women there. I now care more when I hear about tribal conflicts and AIDS issues there. I’m more compassionate because I have friends there whom I care about.

Oprah

So, Oprah – How can we better support each other? How can we help other women reach their dreams and ‘live their best life‘? And how can we turn this trend around of not supporting each other and reverse declining friendships?

·By changing our priorities and spending time with female friends.
·By appreciating each other and celebrating our friendships.
·By recognizing the self-care and health benefits we receive when we’re with our girlfriends and making sure we turn this around and pass along to our girlfriends.

Life is short and filled with unknowns. Several of my girlfriends have cancer. One is going through a divorce right now. Many are dealing with their own financial crisis. Most of us have over complicated our lives with jobs, schedules, kid’s schedules and all kinds of responsibilities and excessive expectations.

Female friendship makes us healthier, happier, live longer, less-stressed and even feel more beautiful. Let’s live our best life by befriending others and ourselves. Let’s support each other. Cheer for other’s success and celebrate our friendships. Let’s take care of us (by having healthy friendships) so we can take care of others (and demonstrate to our children the blessings and joys of friendship).

So Oprah, go spend some time with Gayle. Call her up and laugh about your day or talk about great shoes together. It doesn’t have to be monumental and super meaningful, just a conversation between girlfriends. I guarantee all the stress of the day will vanish and your outlook on life will shift in a wonderful direction.

Let’s all spend time with our girlfriends and support each other. Let’s turn the trend around and take back our friendships and our schedules. Let’s be the friend we’d love to have.
Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for being a great girlfriend by example. And thanks for reading this!

Your friend, Debba, founder of Girlfriendology.com.

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