Female friendships are just a hop to our sisterhood, and sisterhood can be a very powerful force.Jane Fonda
In ancient times, and prevailing is some rural communities, women shared a lot more than most women do today. There was, and in rural communities, there is a sharing: care of their babies, gathered food and cooking together. The women and the children share their lives daily and were a source of strength and comfort to each other. Traditions like the Red Tent, where women came together during menstruation to be together, often with synchronized cycles, were a beautiful time for nurturing, sharing women’s business and keeping each other resilient and happy. This communal spirit was also shared during Biblical and Roman times.
Today, women are a lot more isolated in their own homes and lives and more separate from each other. The opportunities for coming together are much more limited and the time spent together in this way greatly reduced. Because of this, women miss the beautiful healing and nourishment that comes from being with other.
Creating community nourishment
Women are at the centre of family life, the pillars of a family, providing care for children and often the wider community. Other women fill the emotional gaps in the intimate partnership’s women have. They strengthen each other and these relationships, as a support and assurance that one person cannot be everything to you.
Being with other women helps you to be a better mother, and the moral support, physical, emotional and mental support and stimulation create a beautiful harmonious environment for children to thrive. Women are natural nurturers and empathic givers. It is vital for them to receive and be nourished as continual giving out ends in depletion, an increasingly common health problem. Women instinctively know how to nourish each other, and just being with each other is restorative.
The Power of Female Friendship
The true benefits of friendship are immeasurable. Female friends make our lives better and numerous studies show that friendship has a bigger impact on our physical and psychological wellbeing than family relationships. Women share a special bond; they bare their souls to each other, support and encourage one another.
The author Louise Bernikow said: Female friendships that work are relationships in which women help each other to belong to themselves. The power of female friendships has also revealed some of its secrets to science. Researchers have found that the hormone oxytocin is, for women especially, the panacea of friendship, and by extension, health.
How Friendships Reduce Stress
Studies have found that women respond to stress differently than men. This fact has significant health implications on women. When people experience stress, the fight or flight response is triggered and releases hormones such as cortisol. Oxytocin, a hormone studied for its role in childbirth and bonding, is hormone that is secreted by both men and women in response to stress. In women, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages them to protect and nurture their children and to gather with other women.
Women instinctively support one another.
Researchers refer to this phenomenon as the “tend and befriend” pattern, and it is prevalent in females of many species. When women engage in tending or befriending, even more oxytocin is released, further countering stress and calming them down. Until recently many research studies on stress focused on males, but this has changed, and researchers say that women were largely excluded in stress research.
Men produce high levels of testosterone when they’re under stress, and according to research, it reduces the calming effects of oxytocin. They are therefore more likely to deal with stress with aggression (fight) or withdrawal (flight). A woman on the other hand, produces estrogen that enhances the effects of oxytocin and compels them to seek support.
Jane Fonda, activist and actress says: “Friendship between women is different than friendship between men. We talk about different things. We delve deep. We go under, even if we haven’t seen each other for years. There are hormones that are released from women to other women that are healthy and do away with the stress hormones. It’s my women friends that keep starch in my spine and without them, I don’t know where I would be. We have to just hang together and help each other.”