A study claims that going on a trip with just your girlfriends puts you in a much happier place in life.
We all know that hanging out with our friends from time to time is crucial. It keeps us happy, it keeps us sane and is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Most times, just meeting up for lunch or at a bar in the evenings over the weekends is enough but when things get too hectic, you need to go on vacation. Some place that is less stressful, semi-toxic, and where you can pounce on some great food regardless of how unhealthy it might be. Now, there's a study that supports you. The study that was conducted in 2016 by the clever folks at Harvard suggests that girls trips are actually great for your mental health. It suggests that a trip with your friends helps in releasing oxytocin, the hormone that makes you happy. It is often called the "love" or the "cuddle" hormone. So it's time to hit your friends up, grab your bags, pack your stuff, book your tickets, and leave for the weekend. Best of all, you're now doing it in the name of science!
The happiness hormone, oxytocin, is generally produced during positive social situations that make an individual feel trusting, empathetic, and all-around very happy. The hormone is also known to be a great antidote for all the anxious and depressed feelings. It helps people deal with their mental health issues as well. Science also suggests that with more trips and a higher level of oxytocin can increase life expectancy, keeps an individual healthier, and in some ways even helps people tolerate pain better. The hormone makes people more generous and friendlier as well.
The study found out that people who do not spend time with their friends and go out only when it is work related tend to be more depressed, get anxious easily, and have later-life cognitive decline. A study in 2010 that analyzed the lives of 309,000 people, discovered that a lack of strong social ties is directly related to the increased risk in premature death from all causes. The analysis showed the increase was around 50%. Even the risk of dementia increases based on how lonely people feel.
Researchers noted, “Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality. Overall, the influence of both objective and subjective social isolation on risk for mortality is comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality.” It doesn't really get any better as the years go by. A study that was conducted in 2015 looked at the data of more than 3.4 million people in 70 different studies. The study showed that loneliness could have the same effect as one smoking up to 15 cigarettes in a day.
With the kind of technology we have today everyone across the world is so easily connected. Communicating with someone you're close to easier than it ever was before. However, interaction with friends online doe snot help make us feel better or increase the level of oxytocin by much in our body. They are not real, in-person interactions and fail to give the mental boost that you require. Glenn Sparks, a communications professor at Purdue University, explained to The Washington Post that people have swapped in-person social interactions for screen time – and that’s definitely not healthy.
“Today, you walk down that sidewalk and people are staring at their iPhones and iPads and in some cases even their laptops,” Sparks, co-author of Refrigerator Rights: Creating Connections and Restoring Relationships, said. “Their earbuds are in and they’re gone into some virtual space. We think that really takes a toll on the relational health of any community.” In-person relationships are a lot more powerful and having real conversations in a nice setting is much better than typing out what we want to say while lying in our beds. Proximity with the people whose company we enjoy also helps in increasing the levels of oxytocin.
Having friends is a good thing, no doubt about that. However, maintaining friendships is something most people struggle with because of changing jobs, excess work, taking care of family, raising the children, people move, etc. Research in the past has shown that distance does not necessarily dampen a friendship, not a good one at least. People still manage to find time out of their busy lives and stay in touch. It requires a little bit of effort but it is worth it. However, we need to make sure to have a small set of friends no matter where we are. Or even try meeting up with these far off friends as often as we can in order to maintain mental well being.
So that adds up to the fact that we all need to take some time off and get out of the city with our friends. Go someplace new, someplace that you can discover, or even someplace you can just laze around in. Also, the study talks only about close friends, people you love spending time with and having a good laugh with. It isn't necessarily talking about going wild with your friends either. That is completely up to and what makes you happy. Meeting new people can be fun but it does not increase oxytocin or increase mental health the way your close friends do. So, I guess it's time to start planning, isn't it?