Sisterhood--The Way to a Woman's Good Health
Updated: Jan 10
Historically women have come together to support each other, find strength and comfort, nourish, restore and share with each other --through thick and thin. Today scientific studies claim that creating a community of Sisterhood and maintaining friendships with women actually keep us healthy!
In an evening class at Stanford University (http://www.joanlunden.com/category/1-health/item/48-they-teach-it-at-stanfordhealth/item/48-they-teach-it-at-stanford) on the mind-body connection and the relationship between stress and disease, Dr. David Spiegal, Director of the Center on Stress and Health, Professor in the School of Medicine, Associate Chair, Stanford University School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Science said, “among other things, that 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 was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.”
“Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically, this quality girlfriend time helps us to create more serotonin—a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of wellbeing,”
To add to this, in a landmark UCLA study cited in the article ”Why Women Need a Tribe” by Tanja Taljaard and Azriel Re’Shel http:/upliftconnect.com/why-women-need-a-tribe/ the authors suggest that Sisterhood could be the most powerful force in women’s health.
The study actually shows that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women.
Researchers have found that the hormone oxytocin, a hormone mainly studied for its role in childbirth is, “for women especially, the panacea of friendship and by extension, health.” When women are under stress, oxytocin, is secreted. Drs. Laura Klein, PHD, Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and Shelley Taylor, UCLA Professor of Psychology, write that “When we actually engage in tending or befriending even more oxytocin is released, further countering stress and calming us down.” Women also “produce estrogen that enhances the effects of oxytocin and compels them to seek social support. “
They go on to cite a 2006 breast cancer study that 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 weren’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.” There’s no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.”
The women in our Circles discussed the power and force of Sisterhood in our lives. Is this need to be part of a tribe just our hormones speaking or does it have biological or evolutionary roots?
We were all in consensus that trust and loyalty from friends is a necessity for wellbeing---women search their lives to find those connections and hope they stick!
We also agreed about how important it is for women to “hold the space” for each other without judgment. This allows us to reveal our vulnerabilities, an effort which requires a lot of courage, as we’re all at varying levels of growth on life’s journey.
It was unanimous among the Circles that having trusted girlfriends sure did make you feel good and not having them made you feel lousy and alone. It’s certainly nice to know that “chewing on stuff” with friends really does keep us on the road to health and happiness!
What do you look for in your friendships with women? Do you feel isolated from a community of women?