As a young kid, Megan Hobbs and I were inseparable -- we even shared an oh-so-official best friend "heart" necklace.
Eventually, she moved away, and after a few years of letter-writing, we drifted (though, naturally, we've since reconnected on Facebook), but she will always be my first BFF. Then came Liz, Shannon, Alanna, Ginny, and Lisa -- girls who have become my go-to besties for a good chunk of my life. Although we're scattered around the U.S., when I'm around these girls, I feel at my best.
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So, I was disturbed to read a piece in today's New York Times in which psychologists question whether kids should actually have best friends. Mostly, this hesitation is out of fear that an inseparable two-some or three-some can lead to exclusivity, cliques, and bullying.
Whether it's better to socialize in a pack or with a few close pals is up for debate, but what is clear is that friendships are a key component of good health. While Facebook and IM-ing make it easy and convenient to accumulate hundreds of superficial buds, I'm going to focus on nurturing my solid friendships. Here's why you should too:
Women with besties...
... live longer. A study in the American Journal of Health and Behavior reports that socializing with friends can have as positive an impact on health as quitting smoking, working out, or eating right. And in a 10-year Australian study, researchers found that subjects who had a solid group of friends were 22 percent less likely to die than those who had few close pals to depend on.
... are more likely to bust out of health ruts. Women who work out with a BFF are 45 percent more likely to exercise than those who sweat solo. Check out this video of the ultimate moves to do together--while gossiping about last night's episode of "The Bachelorette."
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... are happier. "Smaller networks actually predict positively for mental health," says Laura L. Carstensen, Ph.S., director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California. "Pruning superficial friendships is part of the process of figuring out who you are and who you want to be around. I compare it to putting all of your friends in a centrifuge. It whirls around, and the most casual friend get splattered against the wall. The ones who are left standing are likely to be there for life."
...are more likely to survive breast cancer. In a study of 3,000 women with breast cancer, those without close friends were four times more likely to die than those with 10 or more friends.
Would you rather have a large group of friends, or a few super close pals? How do you nurture your friendships?
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