Relationships

Grateful Girlfriends Are The Best Stress Relievers

Girlfriends that give thanks together, succeed together.
 

By Jill Daniel and Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT

By 2002, 90 percent of stress research had been conducted on males. Laura Cousin Klein and Shelly Taylor, two scientists at UCLA, decided to change that. Their research proved that when women are stressed, the hormone oxytocin [known as the “love” hormone] is released as part of the stress response; it buffers the typically male “fight or flight” stress response. Oxytocin production encourages women to gather and gab with other women-and when a woman does bond with her pals, studies indicate she’ll release more oxytocin, which further alleviates stress and creates tranquility.

That’s the good news about female bonding: When we talk to each other, we feel better-at least temporarily. But there’s a bigger picture effect at work. What often occurs in conversation between women, especially under stress, is commiserating. Haven’t you noticed that when you have men, motherhood, or career problems, you tend to gravitate toward friends who have the same kinds of challenges?

Girlfriends that give thanks together, succeed together.
  September 19, 2008

By Jill Daniel and Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT

  September 19, 2008- By 2002, 90 percent of stress research had been conducted on males. Laura Cousin Klein and Shelly Taylor, two scientists at UCLA, decided to change that. Their research proved that when women are stressed, the hormone oxytocin [known as the “love” hormone] is released as part of the stress response; it buffers the typically male “fight or flight” stress response. Oxytocin production encourages women to gather and gab with other women-and when a woman does bond with her pals, studies indicate she’ll release more oxytocin, which further alleviates stress and creates tranquility.

That’s the good news about female bonding: When we talk to each other, we feel better-at least temporarily. But there’s a bigger picture effect at work. What often occurs in conversation between women, especially under stress, is commiserating. Haven’t you noticed that when you have men, motherhood, or career problems, you tend to gravitate toward friends who have the same kinds of challenges?

Misery loves company, and despite our professional careers in wellness journalism (Jill) and psychotherapy (Mary Kay) we’ve also descended into a dark verbal camaraderie with our friends. In the short term, it’s not a big deal, but we know that regular negative thinking and talking doesn’t produce good results in life. Friends who complain together, stagnate together. The friendship doesn’t grow and neither do we as individuals.

We do recognize that it is emotionally healthy to express our feelings and to have others hear our sorrows and upsets-but there must be a limit to wallowing. Overall, we felt that women could bond and chat in a healthier way than the norm, what we deemed “trouble talk.” Enter research on gratitude.

What happens in our lives when conversations about gratitude become common between women friends? What happens to those problems that stressed us out in the first place and sent us scurrying to the shelter of our female friendships? Positive psychology research reveals that with gratitude commitment and practice, we have the proper perspective to see problems and challenges in a different light and handle them much better.
Friends who praise and appreciate life together get closer to each other and soar higher in their personal and professional lives.

Consider these findings from psychology professors and leading gratitude researchers Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough:

*People who keep gratitude lists are more likely to make progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

*People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

*Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

With all the benefits available to us through gratitude consciousness, we believed it was worth the time and investment to create a program for women that would allow us to easily get our “Gratitude Groove” on, and to share the experience with as many women as possible.

We discovered that a Gratitude Groove organically occurs when two female friends repeatedly talk about what’s right about their lives; that includes excavating the hidden gems in situations that annoy, challenge, and anger us. Through our 40-Day program, women friends experience more unconditional peace and joy, supporting each other in the belief that every life circumstance works toward our ultimate well being and growth.

So why does a consistent gratitude practice make us feel more empowered? Neuroscientists now know that when there is a continual repetition of similar thoughts, be they positive or negative, it causes a repetition of molecular action in the brain, thereby forming a groove or neural pathway in the brain. Once a mental groove is formed, we tend to repeat that way of thinking. We fortunately have the power, at anytime in our lives, to create new grooves in our thinking and reverse old negative ones.

Through experiencing 40 consecutive days of gratitude thoughts, talks, and actions in our program, women friends can reverse an unconscious griping groove.

Once what they appreciate becomes a focus in our conversations, women are increasingly inclined to have a positive take on all situations, first in their thinking-then in their speech, and finally through positive actions. That’s empowerment within reach for all girlfriends-and though we haven’t scientifically proven that gratitude produces oxytocin, our personal experiences have led us to believe that gratitude is a far better method for producing good feelings and depth in women’s friendships than stress is.

For more information on The Gratitude Groove, go to gratitudegroove.com

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