Without falling back on the lyrics of easy listening classics, friends are important. But for women, it goes beyond the average social connection. Proving once again the sexes are very different, research shows that when women are under pressure, the impulse is not necessarily to fight, flight or eat ice cream. It’s to befriend and bond.
Researchers from UCLA have recently found women under stress release a cocktail of chemicals including oxytocin which gives women the urge to make and maintain friendships with other women. Once successfully surrounded by friends, we’re given an extra shot to give produce a delicious feeling of calm. This is the exact opposite to the scruffier gender which prefers to be left well alone.
This isn’t the first study to show that friendships are important. Being social has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, keep you sharp and to just enjoy a happier life overall.
In fact the famous Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School said having no close friends was just as dangerous as being overweight or smoking. This is backed by a 10-year Australian study that found subjects with a large group of friends were 22% less likely to die during the study period than those with fewest number of friends.
If these stats are making you nervous, odds are you are feeling a little lonely. Good friends are easy to lose but hard to find. You don’t have to move countries to become disconnected, time, life and your separate paths are enough to mean your social calendar is suddenly filled with dinner for one. Safe in your group of friends from school for most of your early years, it can be hard to learn how to make friends once again.
A good friend is as hard to find as a good partner which is why you should take a similar approach when finding new friends – look in the same places and ‘date’ them. But first you have to be open to finding them.
WHERE TO FIND A GOOD ONE:
Approaching seemingly like-minded people on online dating sites can be a good way to find new friends in your local area. You might want to emphasise that you are not hitting on them in your introductory email.
Take a class – This is a good way to find someone who has similar interests to you and something you can work on together.
Join a sports team – All that comradery and bonding means you’re half way there!
KEEP IN MIND
The most important step is to ask people out.
Remember like dating, you need to chase them (chase, not stalk) and catch up with them regularly so that your potential friendship doesn’t slide into limbo. Make the effort to organise activities with them regularly.
It’s about quality not quantity, so don’t pack your social schedule so you don’t have time for those who will be there for you, thick and thin.
At the end of the day most advice really boils down to getting out there – learn skills, travel with holiday groups, talk to stranger in Starbucks – they are all about opening yourself and starting conversation.
So go on, get talking (talking, not stalking).