I am happy to say I've retained best girlfriends throughout my life, even as far back as my preschool days. I often treat them like my sisters, perhaps because I'm an only child, and desperately wanted siblings of my own. Those relationships from my childhood are some of the strongest, because we managed to stay close despite the fact that we were growing up, and inevitably getting involved in other things and people. There may have been a couple years here and there where things got a bit strained, but like an extra-long rubber band, my friends always bounced back when I needed them.
Female friendships make us stronger in so many ways, but here are six of the most important. If your best ladies do most of these things for you, you're doing pretty well.
Stress is emotionally and physically bad for everyone. Whether it's because of work or a new boyfriend, a good girlfriend recognizes when you're in need of a serious life break. They'll take you out for a girls' night, or just sit on the couch and talk about the issues that are gnawing at you if that's what helps you relax. Sometimes a good, long phone chat with my bestie is enough to bring me off an anxiety ledge.
There will always be points in life where you feel isolated and alone. If you moved to a new city, lost a loved one or just started a new job, that loneliness can affect your overall health and happiness. However, a call or Facetime with one of your girl buddies will help remind you you're never really on your own. Such friends make you feel a sense of belonging to something greater than yourself. Karyn Hall, Ph.D., director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, Texas, says, "A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health and happiness." Sounds like a pretty great reason to buzz that friend you've been meaning to for the past month, doesn't it?
My best girls never let me get away with anything. They know me so well, they can always tell when I'm embellishing a story a bit (which I do often), or when I'm blowing a situation way out of proportion (again, a habit of mine). It might not sound fun, but people who are comfortable enough to nail you when you're not being true to yourself are making you a better person in the long run. They're also totally going to save you from wearing that tube top from high school on a blind date.
And I don't mean they'll be your gym buddy so you'll work out more (although mine definitely have been known to do that, too). According to Oprah, having a strong network of girlfriends helps your chances significantly if you're battling an illness or recovering from an injury. I mean, just look at when Samantha had cancer on Sex and the City. Recovering from an illness is much easier (and probably works better) if you have a bunch of girlfriends around you laughing and making sexual jokes with Popsicles.
For example, I'm wearing a Fitbit right now, because my girlfriend Barrie started using one, and said it's great for people who tend to spend their days sitting at a desk (me). Sure, they may also encourage you to go on the occasional bender that leaves you feeling like you've been run over the next day. However, overall, the girlfriends worth keeping are the ones who inspire you to eat better, work out more and talk out your problems. According to a 2009 study, all this positive influence can even extend your life.
From job opportunities to doctor referrals to event planning, girlfriends are there for you with the best recommendations to help you get to where you want to go. In fact, most of the job opportunities I've gotten have come from one of my best ladies. Never be afraid to ask your friends for assistance in this area if you need it. You'll be surprised by how willing and even excited they'll be to help a sister out.
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