Passports And Packed Bags: Why Girls Trips Are Good For Your Health
Don’t believe the memes that say girls go to Miami together and come back with broken friendships. According to a new study, booking flights with your besties may actually be good for your health. Southern Living recently cited a series of studies that examined the effects of friendships on health. 2016 research found that spending time with your BFFs can increase the level of oxytocin production in the brain. Oxytocin is a the feel-good hormone that promotes bonding and intimacy and research has shown increased oxytocin production can make people happier, more trusting and generous. All things that good friendships are made of.
Another study looked at the lives of 309,000 people and found that the lack of strong social ties increased the risk of premature death by 50%. A 2012 study found that the risk of dementia increased depending on how lonely people felt. So while solo trips are nice, bonding with your besties may be better for your mental and physical health in the long run.
But what about as we get older and friendships become harder to maintain? As life takes us in different directions such as marriage, career and motherhood, it can be easy to get caught up in day to day routines and feel like we don’t have as much time to be social outside of our children and spouses. Being “booked and busy” with parent-teacher conferences, presentations at work and squeezing in a date night or two may seem like a good excuse to flake out on time with friends, but experts say the typical tasks of adulting aren’t quite the same of quality time with your homegirls. In a series of studies, William Chopik of Michigan State University found that particularly in older adults, friendships are a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members:
“Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being. So, it’s smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest.”
Admittedly many of the epic memories I reflect on when I think about the highlights of my life all involve girls’ trips with my friends: OvOFest in Toronto for the first time with my old college roommate/BFF. Drunken shoe shopping in Miracle Mile shops in Las Vegas when my best mom friend came to help me check out wedding venues. Drinking absinthe on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and ending the night with a drag show. Making my bestie ride a Ferris Wheel for the first time at Navy Pier in Chicago. But more than exotic destinations or partying the night away, what social media fails often fails to capture are the moments that matter the most. I remember just walking for blocks aimlessly in Toronto and planning to move there with my best friend as we low key hoped we’d randomly find Drake’s childhood home. There were heart to heart talks about the fears of adulthood, failed relationships and the insecurities that come with questioning your career path, conversations I know would probably not have happened had we not been removed from our repetitive routines.
The thing about girls’ trips that makes them special is recognizing that all you have is one another in what can sometimes be exciting but intimidating foreign places and experiences. And that for a few days or one weekend at a time, you don’t have to be the version of yourself that you are on the daily. As a mother of a four-year-old, most days I’m elbows deep in bedtime routines, making dinner and painfully pushing through daily commutes as me and my spouse trade off pick-up and drop-off four our daughter. Girls’ trips are one of the rare opportunities I have to do more than fill in my eyebrows and pat my face with my forehead with my pressed powder before I face the hustle and bustle of each day. You better believe the Urban Decay palettes get packed for my girls’ getaways. As simple as it seems, having a reason to do my makeup is something I looked forward to since it’s been slowly been de-prioritized according to my responsibilities as a working mom and wife. In my mid-30’s all I ask from girls’ trip is expensive wine, a savory meal, good conversation, a set of sexy selfies and a funny memory or two to recall when I’m sitting in my cubicle about to send my bitter boss an e-mail beginning with “Per my last e-mail.” Girls’ trips are often the reminder I need that I was a whole grown woman before I was ever a mom or a wife and that I am so much more that what I have checked on on the official adulthood checklist.
You don’t have to fall in love with a bad boy in Ibiza while back-packing with your besties, nor do you have to have “Eat, Pray, Love” experience in Italy after a bad breakup with photos that would put Angela Simmons’ feed to shame. A girls’ trip can be as simple as a road trip to a major city a few hours away. What matters most is taking the time away from the daily demands of life to spend time with people who love you enough to help you stalk your favorite Canadian rapper and not judge you for it. Those are the type of folks that are good for your health.
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.