Author Archives: Vandana Narula

Helicopter parenting: When taking too much care becomes harmful…

Why do so many of us wait on our kids or micromanage their lives to jaw-dropping extremes?505306-5f12f2a4-6de9-11e4-aa26-f2e13a006c4d-1 There’s plenty of evidence that this coddling is as unhealthy for them as it is exhausting for us. Read on for some insights plus advice that’ll help you land your crazy copter. The term ‘helicopter parenting’ was coined in reference to the parents who are always hovering over their child all day long like a helicopter. They would even do those tasks for their children which they are perfectly 20140726_LDD001_1capable of doing themselves or otherwise would not give any freedom or privacy to their child for whatever reasons.

All parents care about their children and want to shield them from all negative things possible. It begins at birth, when we take extra care of our children to make sure they are far away from any harm. This may include baby-proofing the apartment, putting ‘baby on-board’ sign on cars, sanitizing everything, etc. This continues as the baby grows into a toddler, preteen, a teenager and sometimes even as they become an adult! After all, the safety and well being of children is of utmost importance to parents. But how do we know at which moment, we can just let the child be?8

Often parents tend to over-involve themselves thinking it will ensure that their children always give their best performance and without them hovering over their children, they will not take things like academic performance or nutritional value of their food, seriously. Though it is true that constant involvement of parents may temporarily improve their performance, in the long term it may lead the students to be anxious all the time. This may be ‘social anxiety’, where the children find it difficult to socialize with strangers or their peers or ‘general performance anxiety’ where the students feel that they always have to be ‘perfect’ at everything and any result less than that is not satisfactory or acceptable.

This clip from the popular television show The Simpson does a good job at describing what helicopter parenting is and how often parents see their peers doing helicopter parenting and therefore feel the need for them to indulge in the same.  

Children need and appreciate the help of adults, especially their parents in performing certain tasks and in life in general. But once a level of involvement is reached, good parenting can become over-parenting that poses serious risks to the development of the offspring and may even disturb their mental health.

Parents yelling at teenage daughter

A growing body of evidence indicates that being a (s)mother or a super-protective dad can backfire badly. Among the latest studies is one from North Carolina State University, in which researchers studied kids and their parents in 20 parks over a two-month period. They found that children whose folks hovered and fretted were far less apt to engage in spontaneous play and missed out on some much-needed exercise. Psychologists at the University of Washington studied more than 200 kids and their moms for three years and found that when a child already had pretty good judgment and self-control, having a heli-mom who provided too much guidance and not enough independence raised his risk of becoming anxious or depressed

Over-involvement of parents in the life of their teenagers can harm them in different ways. 1Overly criticizing parents can make their children feel worthless which may dissuade them from ever trying anything on their own or lose their confidence thinking they are not good enough. On the other hand, overly protective parents who take care of everything for their children may make them believe that success is always served on plate and they may never actually learn to put their best effort in anything they do. While this involvement may yield better results in short term, such as in terms of better grades and a sense of achievement for the kids but as they grow older and parents become incapable of helping them in every task, it can be very troubling since they will tend to get annoyed when things are not getting done or they face failure. This can further lead to depression in the children.



Most parents would absolve their kids of taking responsibility of day to day tasks, such as washing their clothes, doing dishes, taking out the garbage or even serving their own dinner, just to ensure that no hurdle gets in the way of them securing astounding grades in school. But by doing so, are the parents enabling their offspring to grow into a responsible adult? Not necessarily. In fact, they might be paving way for their children to grow into half-baked adults who can’t take care of themselves and still have to rely on others for advice or guidance for every important action they take.5

So, when does parenting become helicopter parenting and how can we avoid it? Parenting becomes stressful when children are not allowed their space to grow as individuals. While it is very much expected that parents be there for their child in time of need and dread but do no encroach too much. Let the 6children make some of their own decisions, let them deal with small failures in life, allow them to be disappointed sometimes and when you think that things are getting really stressful for kids to deal by themselves, help them figure out and solve their problems instead of doing so yourself directly.  Remember, the sign of good parenting is that the parenting is actually done by the time the offspring turns into an adult.

How to Improve Your Mental Health with Simple Lifestyle Changes

In the 21st century, everyone is so busy. All of us, no matter our age or profession, have so many things to worry about—promotion at work, paying the bills, looking after the kids, saving up for college, doing well in exams, and so on. The stress that comes from this pressure can have many lasting negative effects on you; affect your mental health and relationship with loved ones, making you feel exhausted and irritated most of the time. Most of us don’t act on removing that stress from our lives because we don’t have the time for it but over the time minor changes in your lifestyle can make amazing improvement in your mood and make your life better.

Leadership with education

Here are some things you can do to improve your overall mental health and reduce stress:

Increase Your Physical Activity

It has been established beyond doubt that physical activity plays the most important role in ensuring both physical and mental health. As per American Psychological Association, exercise pa_mainbannercan relieve stress, reduce depression and improve cognitive functions. 62% of the people who did exercise to reduce stress found it effective against 33% and 29% who found watching TV and going online effective respectively.  But not all of us are able to take time out for workout every day. However, in order to deal with stress, you don’t need a dedicated hour at the gym. Short spans of physical activities that can raise the heart rate are perfect especially if these constitute more than 30 minutes of your day’s time. This can be ensured by:

  • Taking stairs instead of elevator/escalator
  • Walking/Cycling to the grocery store.
  • Dancing around in your free time if you enjoy doing that.
  • Just pace around whenever you can.
  • Take time out for workout or your favorite sport on weekends or whenever possible.

Replace your fast foodimages (5)

Try and make sure that you get full healthy meals, proper breakfast, lunch and dinner but if for some reason you are not able to do that, make sure that you

  • Don’t munch on unhealthy fast foods like pizzas, burgers, street food, etc. Two separate studies conducted in UK and Spain suggested that higher consumption of fast food is linked with higher rates of depression.
  • Avoid sugary drinks like cola, sprite, etc. and avoid adding sugar to your drinks like tea or images (6)coffee. Opt for black tea/coffee or green tea.
  • Keep a fruit with you in your bag like an apple, pear, banana or guava and vegetables that you can eat raw like cucumber, carrot, etc. so that you can have a health snack whenever need be.

 Enhance Your Diet

  • Research shows that our diet can influence our mental health, for both good and bad. Fruits and vegetables are associated with better mental well-being, according to recent research from the University of Warwick. That’s important because mental well-being—PyramidWebSmallfeelings of optimism, happiness, self-esteem and resilience can help protect not only against mental health problems but physical ones as well.
  • Fatty foods, on the other hand, may increase the risk for psychiatric symptoms by changing the bacteria that live in our gut, according to new  A study done with mice showed increased anxiety, impaired memory, repetitive behavior, and brain inflammation as a result of a high-fat diet. Some fats, however, fall into the “good” category. Omega-3 fatty acids such as are found in salmon, for example, may help with some forms of depression.
  • Sugar, of course, should have only a minimal place in your diet. Not only can it spark rapid weight gain and an addictive response in some, it has been linked to higher rates of images (7)depression and can make mental health symptoms worse, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • Have a healthy breakfast that includes all essential nutrients. This is to ensure that you have all the energy you need for the entire day. Include healthy foods like eggs, fruits, vegetables, oats, etc. in your breakfast and avoid things like bread and potatoes.

The 5-minute break

Sometimes when the workload is getting too much to handle and chaotic and you feel like your head is bursting out, make sure you take that much needed 5 minutes break no matter how short you are running on time. This will ensure that your productivity increases and you finish your task without any stress. But what to do with this 5 minutes break?

  • Take a deep breath (literally) and just sit quietly for 5 minutes; try not to think about anything at all and this will calm you down enough to be able to continue doing your work.
  • Listen to your favorite song. Music has a lasting effect on our mood and listening to calm and soothing music will refresh you.
  • Take a walk in fresh air if you have access.7-Free-Tools-to-Remind-You-to-Take-a-Break-and-Relax-Your-Eyes
  • Call someone you love and talk to them. Call your parents, spouse, children or a dear friend, anyone you know who makes you feel great and loved. They will also appreciate the gesture.
  • Spend time with your pet. Pets are known to relieve stress and some domestic animals like dogs are even used to treat patients with severe depression.
  • Laugh out loud, even if for no reason at all and not that ‘lol’ you write on Facebook chats, but for real. Laughing is proved to relieve stress.

Manage Your Sleep Time Well

Sleep time and stress are directly related. People who do not get enough sleep are much more likely to be stressed. To ensure that it affects your stress levels the least:

  • Try and get enough sleep daily, for most people 7-9 hours do. As per American Psychological Association, people who sleep more than 8 hours a night are less likely to animated-sleeping-clip-art-61848 (1)report symptoms of stress than those who sleep less than 8 hours.
  • Don’t drink too much caffeine. Caffeine affects both your sleep routine and stress level.
  • Sleep for a regular time every day including weekends, for example if you are going to sleep every day at 11 pm and waking up at 7 am for work/school, make sure that this remains your routine even on weekends. This will help you relieve stress.

Take Time Out for Loved OnesFamilyTime

Sometimes things get so busy that we forget to give time to the people who mean the most to us, the people whom we are working so hard for in the first place. This can be a source of great stress, not just for you but for the people you ought to give time to as well. So make sure that you give enough time to your children, parents, and spouse. Even if you can’t afford to vacation with them, make sure you:

  • Ask them how their day at work/home/school was and share your day’s stories with them.
  • Call them regularly if they live away, even if only for short duration, and ask them how they are doing; share your feelings with them.
  • Always attend the important events in your kids’ lives like their first play or dance recitals; it will make you and your kids feel good.



Emotions: How they effect your dietary habits?

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said: “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”.

Does stress, anger or sadness drive you to eat?emotional_eating

Do you turn to food for comfort or when you’re bored? Many people do.

Are you eating until you are uncomfortable and stuffed?

You’re gaining weight and you don’t know why? Don’t assume that it’s just that you’re getting  older or slacking on the treadmill.

Obeying the urge to eat more than you need is a sure-fire way to gain weight. If you often eat for emotional reasons instead of because you’re physically hungry, that can be a problem. The surprising part is, it’s not really about food at all.  You might not even realize you’re doing it. Consider how you’re doing emotionally and whether that might be affecting your eating. You can get back in control of your emotional eating.

How Your Emotions Can Control Your Dietemotional-eating-310x310

For thousands of years, people have believed that food could influence their health and well-being. Since medieval times, people started taking great interest in how certain foods affected their mood and temperament.

You need to understand how your emotions can manipulate your diet. If you are depressed which means you probably have a high AA/EPA ratio (which is an indication of levels of cellularinflammation in your body) and low serotonin levels or are physically or mentally stressed which increases cortisol (stress hormone) levels, it’s likely that

you are craving for carbohydrate-rich comfort foods like mashed potatoes, candy bars and pizza. Research has found that emotions affect eating and that negative moods and positive moods may actually lead to preferences for different kinds of foods. For example, if given the choice between grapes or chocolate candies, someone in a good mood may choose the former while someone in a bad mood may choose the latter.

These foods do provide temporary emotional comfort by increasing blood sugar levels and serotonin levels in your brain. Two or three hours after eating these foods, however, your insulin levels will soar causing your blood sugar levels to plunge.


This forces your body to increase cortisol production to maintain adequate blood sugar levels to the brain. Thus, you’ll wind up increasing your production of cortisol, which will, in turn, generate more depression and require another cycle of self-medication with carbohydrates.

You might try to solve these mood swings with more comfort food, but all you’re doing is setting off a continuing cascade of hormonal events that will continue to thwart your efforts to lift your spirits. In fact, you’re also giving yourself a sure-fire prescription for accelerated aging and continued emotional lows.

The truth is not all emotional eating is unhealthy. It’s normal and natural occasionally to eat to celebrate with friends or because you’re feeling blue. “It only becomes a problem when it is used frequently and even in the face of unhealthy consequences, such as medical issues.

“Self-compassion is the first step toward learning to comfort yourself in other ways.” — Leslie Becker Phelps, PhD

 If your emotions affect your physiological health, can your diet affect your emotions?

I believe that it can and that you can enhance your emotional well being with the foods you choose to eat and certain ways you can cope with curbing the desire momentarily has the potential to improve your emotional state and deal with emotional eating. I’m not saying that dietary recommendations can totally control your emotions, but they will give you significantly more control than you probably currently have.

  • Supplementing with high-dose fish oil reduces your levels of both pro-inflammatory stock-photo-16651980-fish-oilcytokines and eicosanoids.  High-dose fish oil also increases the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone in your brain, which allows you to adapt to stress more effectively.
  • Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that the brain produces from tryptophan food-1322357contained in foods such as clams, oysters, escargots, octopus, squids, banana, pineapple, plum, nuts, milk, turkey, spinach, and eggs. Functions of serotonin include the regulation of sleep, appetite and impulse control. Increased serotonin levels are related to mood elevation. Diet rich in carbohydrates can relieve depression and elevate mood in disorders such as carbohydrate craving egg-1327570obesity, pre-menstrual syndrome and seasonal affective disorder.
  • Stabilizing insulin levels will reduce the output of cortisol (which is often released in response to decreased blood sugar levels).
  • It helps to add a delay between the urge to eat and actually eating. That gives you time to check in with how you’re feeling and why you want to eat?
  • When you get the urge to eat a cookie out of sadness or boredom, remember that you have the option to wait it out. “Saying to yourself ‘I’ll have it later’ gives the impulse time to pass,” even if it doesn’t, successfully delaying the snack helps you feel more in control. Wear a rubber band around your wrist, and snap it whenever you reach for the jelly beans it’s a cue to not eat.
  • Research findings show that individuals in negative moods will still make food choices influenced by temporal construal which suggests that trying to focus on something other spinach-1177784than the present can reduce the consumption of indulgent foods. When you’re tempted to snack for emotional reasons, try moving instead. A quick burst of activity refreshes you and moving is a proven stress-buster. You’ve replaced the urge to eat with something else.
  • The relationship between food and mood in individuals is complex and depends on the time of day, the type and macronutrient composition of food, the amount of food consumed, and the age and dietary history of the subject.Furthermore, circadian rhythms influence our energy levels and performance throughout the day. “Early birds” feel most productive the first part of the day and their food choices become particularly important during lunch and throughout the afternoon. “Night Owls” feel most energetic later in the day and should pay attention to their breakfast choices as they can increase or decrease energy levels and influence cognitive functioning. If you are an evening person and you skip breakfast, your cognitive performance might be impaired. A large breakfast rich in protein, however, could improve your recall performance but might impair your concentration.overweight-and-diet-1318798

In the final analysis, your emotions and your immune system are intertwined in a complex orchestration. As you begin to understand how emotions stem from hormonal communication, you will have a starting point to develop dietary strategies to improve emotional control. The “mind-body” connection really becomes the “mind-body-diet” connection, and dietary regulation should become your primary tool to improve emotional control. Conversely, the wrong diet (especially one deficient in Essential Fatty Acids and rich in Carbohydrates) is your passport to emotional chaos. The choice is yours.

How you react to stress matters

stress-worry-woman-text-white-23159798Stress, anxiety and tension may be the commonest of the psychiatric disorders, but they do not attract as much attention because they are less dramatic in nature. Stress can date back to the cave man, who must have been faced with the ‘fight or flight’ experiences in daily life. Situations like facing a ferocious animal have taken a different shape now. More important and even worse, is the chronic shape of stress and anxiety that has taken the place of physical danger. The urge for financial security, power, status, disruption in family life, lack of sleep, lack of time for relaxation and vacation, is playing havoc with our lives.

Contemporary stress tends to be more pervasive, persistent and insidious because it stems primarily from psychological than physical threats.  It is associated with ingrained and immediate reactions over which we have no control that were originally designed to be beneficial.

REACTING TO STRESS10-Tips-for-a-Stress-Free-Holiday

Stress manifests with both physical and psychological symptoms. Our fight-or-flight response is our body’s sympathetic nervous system reacting to a stressful event. Our body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin, which trigger a faster heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness – all these factors help us protect ourselves in a dangerous or challenging situation.

Non-essential body functions slow down, such as our digestive and immune systems when we are in fight-or flight response mode. All resources can then be concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness and muscle use.

Stress activates certain parts of the nervous system called limbic system which is connected with many body organs through a wide network of autonomic nerves. It creates a hormonal storm in the body, with the pounding of heart, rising blood pressure and tension of muscles. An excessive activation of autonomic nervous system can produce symptoms in the chest, heart, abdomen, eyes, mouth, face or limbs and many other parts of the body. One can experience pain, discomfort, weakness, etc. One can feel the beat of the heart or even experience a missing heart beat. In some cases even the breathing rate may increase.antistress-1-1506008

If you were to ask a dozen people to define stress, or explain what causes stress for them, or how stress affects them, you are likely get 12 different answers to each of these questions. The reason for this is that there is no definition of stress that everyone agrees upon; what is stressful for one person may be exciting for another, and might have little effect on others. We all react to stress differently.

It is important to learn that what matters more than the event itself is usually our thoughts about the event when we are trying to manage stress. How you see that stressful event will be the largest single factor that impacts your physical and mental health. Your interpretation of events and challenges in life may decide whether they are invigorating or harmful for you.

Conflicting with popular belief, stressors are not the cause of health issues; rather, it is people’s reactions to these stressors that determine whether in future these will have negative health consequences.


A persistently negative response to challenges will eventually have a negative effect on your health and happiness. Experts say people who tend to perceive things negatively need to understand themselves and their reactions to stress-provoking situations better. Then they can learn to manage stress more successfully.

Research shows that the reaction to a stressful situation now, can predict your health problems for 10 years down the road, regardless of your present health and stressors.

David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State says, “For example, if you have a lot of work to do today and you are really grumpy because of it, then youstress are more likely to suffer negative health consequences 10 years from now than someone who also has a lot of work to do today, but doesn’t let it bother her.” Researchers at the University of Western Ontario found  people who believe  stress is affecting their health in a big way are twice as likely to have heart problem ten years later.

On the other hand there are also many people who are unable to analyze their psychological melodies and attribute these symptoms to a known physical disease. Some patients are so strongly convinced that they suffer from a physical disease; they do not want to entertain the idea that their own emotions are responsible for their physical symptoms. A few of them also undergo surgeries like appendicectomy,choleccystectomy or hysterectomy without any improvement. Studies have shown that about 40 percent of patients attending various health centres do not have any specific physical disease. They only have physical symptoms.



The key to reducing stress is to prevent it.

When doctors fail to make an adequate diagnosis, you must know that your illness is functional, that means more than physical you have a psychological problem. Just as stress is different for each of us, there is no stress reduction strategy that is a panacea.  The key to reducing stress is to prevent it. Getting enough sleep, a proper diet, avoiding excess caffeine and other stimulants and taking time out to relax may be helpful in this regard. Get proper health care for existing or new health problems. Many stress relievers work because of the power of the placebo effect that comes from having faith in the procedure or the therapist.

 Seek professional helptherapy

 Some people have inhibitions of visiting a psychiatrist or a therapist.  Any time one hears someone say their friend or loved one “should” go for therapy it sounds like a condemnation, and that’s contributing to the stigma surrounding psychotherapy. Too many contentious arguments end with the shaming comment “You should go to therapy!” which is shorthand for “I think you’re crazy, go pay someone to fix you.”   That’s so unfair…. therapy is effective for helping painful experiences become tolerable. It’s a proven method for changing harmful thinking, relational, and behavioral patterns, not only that it’s also used to make good lives great. Seek help from a qualified mental health care provider if you are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, have suicidal thoughts, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.

Reach out to peopleimages (3)

Strong emotional support from group therapy, family or friends is a powerful stress buster. Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one. Strong emotional support from group therapy, family or friends is a powerful stress buster. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues.

Explore stress coping programs1282914404_stress

Other very different approaches like acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, Alexander, Reiki, and other bodywork and postural techniques can achieve the same results because they reduce feelings of helplessness and provide a sense of control over the problem. Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, images (2)tai chi, or other gentle exercises. Some people find that listening to music, hobbies, volunteer work, keeping a daily journal of events and how they feel, laughter, playing with pets, taking short breaks or shopping, help them relax. Others find relief for their stress related symptoms from aromatherapy, nutritional supplements like chamomile, spearmint, etc.

Take the antidotepills-1523810

  There are also prescription tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics, anti-depressants and beta-blockers for specific complaints. In addition, a variety of cranio-electromagnetic stimulation devices have been found to be effective and safe for anxiety, insomnia and drug resistant stress. These must however be consumed only under prescription of a medical practitioner/ psychiatrist, and strictly as per advise.

Why female bonding is a thing and why it matters.

             girls-1166734 With the emergence of terms  like “bromance”  explaining close, emotionally intense, non-sexual, affectionate, homo social male bond that exceeds  usual friendship, validates the dynamics of female friendship making it an interesting line of thinking. Female bonding is different than male bonding, but the question raised is if women can form deep (non-sexual) relationships with each other or are these relationships superficial.

Real life and reel life reel of examples of female friendships that surpass all other emotional 70125539bonds….. “Oprah and Gayle” are names that have practically become synonymous with “female friendship”. Oprah and Gayle are one of those name pairings that everybody immediately knows — the most powerful woman in media, and her closest confidante. Gayle King has been by Oprah’s side for decades since they first met in 1976, and has been an integral part of her empire, from editing O Magazine to being a special correspondent for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Oprah has said  of their friendship: “I wish every person on earth to experience somebody to care for them and to know them in such a way that they only want the best for you… When you become famous…a lot of people lose oxygen and they can’t make the summit with you. [It’s good] to be able to have somebody who not only can make the summit, but stand at the summit with you and rejoices in your being able to make it.”

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert These two giants of the sports world were the biggest martinarivals in tennis — and best of friends off the court. From 1973 to 1988, they competed against one another in a whopping 80 matches, including 61 finals. But they were such good mates that, after many finals, they’d travel to their next tournament together — no matter who’d won.

  Movies like “sex and the city” will forever be iconic not just because of the fashion that was featured, not just because of the roller coaster love stories, but also because of the rock-solid friendship between four women. sex-and-the-city-rooftop-party 30 Rock gave us a tense, difficult, and ultimately rewarding friendship between two women who were dedicated to each other.

The evolution of the nature of women friendship can be dated back to times when men hunted, women gathered. Human brains and behavior are shaped by millions of years as hunters and gatherers and the basic wiring is still the same as it was in the Upper Paleolithic period – the Stone Age.

Homo sapiens are social animals but as a side effect of modernization there has been   a profound rise in social isolation. More of us are living alone, often in big cities, working long hours and experiencing a profound sense of alienation and insecurity. But the need for social bonding, the ‘tribal’ instinct, is a deep-rooted part of human nature, hard-wired into the human brain by our evolutionary heritage, and there is convincing evidence that individuals in post-industrial societies are striving to re-create these community bonds, forming ‘neo-tribes’ and ‘pseudo-kin’ relationships.friendship-1523723

This longing may perhaps be even more acute among women than men, as women are naturally more social.. Studies consistently show that women are more proficient than men at all forms of communication – verbal and non-verbal – more socially skilled, better at spotting and ‘reading’ the nuances in people’s reactions and behavior and generally more interested in people and relationships.

Women as gatherers and with responsibility for bearing and raising children, also had a critical need to build cooperation and trust with other women. A woman in childbirth or with young babies was highly vulnerable and in need of protection and support – cooperation with other women, both in gathering food and in childcare, was essential to survival. Female friendship – based on cooperation, reciprocal helping and sharing of day-to-day tasks ,child-minding, providing care and support around childbirth, during illness and at other ‘weak’ or defenseless times, required a different kind of trust. It’s a promise of care and love.

Although we no longer face the same dangers or lead the same harsh lives as our Stone Age ancestors, all the same bonding instincts are still in place, and friendship is still a vital part of our lives – perhaps increasingly so in this age of urban alienation and anomie.

net-1548139A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

That idea of female collectivity, of what can happen amongst a close-knit group of girls or women, is fascinating to me. Female bonding tends to be done more quietly and informally than the male variety, without all the fuss and bother and setting up of fancy clubs. Women just bond: we don’t seem to need all the props and trappings, pomp and ceremony, sports and secrecy and silly names and funny handshakes. All women need is a pajama party, trip to the hairdresser, cooking with each other, a couple of chairs and a pot of tea – maybe not even that.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. Although the reasons why the psychological benefits of women friendships are jumping-trio-1154135profound are not crystal clear. Friendships seem to lower stress levels and assist women in navigating the ups and downs of life with better ease than those without strong social ties. This beneficial effect of friendship was felt whether the friends lived near or far. An article published on the New York Times website states that women feel they can count on their friends to pull through for them no matter what they are struggling with in their lives. Female friendships often provide help and support during times of crisis or distress as well as during day-to-day struggles. In my experience, female friendship can be one of the strongest human bonds. It is a deep-seated, enduring loyalty that can rival marriage and blood ties in importance and value.

 There’s no doubt, says Dr. Klein that friends are helping us live longer. Friends are also xv-friends-1-1436407helping us live better. The famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. In fact, the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight. And that’s not all, when the researchers looked at how well the women functioned after the death of their spouse, they found that even in the face of this biggest stressor of all, those women who had a close friend and confidante were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality. Those without friends were not always so fortunate.

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