If you’re dreaming of lounging on a beach with your best gal pals, you now have a legitimate scientific reason to book that trip! Turns out, traveling with girlfriends is actually good for your health. Find out why, then hit the travel sites to plan your next getaway.
What makes traveling with girlfriends so good for your health?
You may already know that going out twice a week with girlfriends is good for you, but what makes a girls-only getaway so beneficial? To answer that question, we’ll be looking at two different things- benefits of friendships and the benefits of travel. Science hasn’t really studied what happens when you combine the two, but it’s easy to see how one helps the other.
We don’t really need science to tell us that friends are good for us, but it’s always nice to know our feelings are backed by studies. Let’s look at the top five benefits of friends, according to science.
Health benefits of having friends
1. Friends help reduce stress
Who do you call when you have a horrible day at work, the kids are acting up, and your husband is stressing you out? If, like most women, your answer is “my best friend,” you already know that friendship reduces stress. Friends provide “safe harbor” and give us a place to vent. A 2011 study found even found that having your friend present during a rough experience can help reduce cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone) in your body.
2. They make you a better person
Did you know that doing good for others actually creates “positive physiological changes in the brain,” according to the Mental Health Foundation? So, when you help your friend in a time of crisis, you’re actually helping yourself, too.
3. Friends can reduce your risk of heart disease
Heart disease doesn’t discriminate again gender, race, or ethnicity. It is the #1 killer across the board in the US. Stress plays a large role in your risk of heart disease, mainly because of the damaging effects of too much cortisol. By lowering your stress levels, friends actually help reduce your risk of heart disease.
4. They help keep you on the right track
Trying to break a bad habit? Enlist the help of a friend! Using the buddy system keeps you more accountable. For example, having a friend check in on your progress and talk you down from that candy bar ledge can help you stick to a diet and lose those extra few pounds you’ve been carrying around. Friends also provide a sounding board for major life decisions. While ultimately you need to decide what is right for you, a good friend will help talk you through all the pros and cons.
5. Friends may even help you live longer!
A study that began in 1992 and followed up ten years later found that friendship is an important component in a longer lifespan. It makes sense if you think about it. Reducing stress and the risk of heart disease is key to living longer. Making healthy decisions, maintaining a healthy weight, feeling like a better person, and quitting bad habits all add up to a better life.
Now that we know the benefits of friends, let’s take a look at how traveling with girlfriends makes us happier and healthier people.
Health benefits of traveling
1. Travel helps relieve stress
As we saw above, stress wreaks havoc on your life. Aside from increasing your cortisol levels, it can make you miserable in many other ways. Stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, and an upset stomach. On the mental side of things, it can lead to sleepless nights, anxiety, and depression. Getting away from everything even for just a weekend can go a long way to rejuvenating your mind and body. The best part? You’ll see the benefits almost immediately, according to one study.
2. It can even lower your risk of heart disease
Along with stress, a lack of physical activity can increase your risk of heart disease. If you’ve ever traveled before, you know that you spend a lot more time being active on vacation than you do in your daily life. Even a relaxing beach getaway involves a good chunk of walking. Don’t believe me? Next time you travel, put on a FitBit or install a health tracker app on your phone. You might be surprised by how many steps you get in just walking from your car to the beach and back!
3. Travel can improve your cognitive thinking
Adam Galinksy, a Columbia Business School professor and author of several studies, explains that traveling can “increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought.” All of that is a fancy way of saying it helps you become a better thinker. Galinsky goes on to explain that it’s not enough to just visit a new place, though. You actually have to spend some time engaging with people while you’re there.
4. Helps reduce your risk of developing depression
Depression affects 7-10% of the US population, depending on which study you’re reading. Since mental disorders still have such a stigma attached to them and people don’t always report it, the number may be significantly higher. As a study in the Wisconsin Medical Journal explains, women who travel may be less likely to develop depression. It makes sense. We come back from a vacation feeling happier and more relaxed. Well, at least until we unpack and take a look at that pile of laundry waiting for us!
5. Travel even helps you feel more satisfied with your life
There’s a reason that the “experiences over things” is trending so hard right now. People who travel tend to feel more satisfied, even if their lives haven’t turned out the way they expecte. One study found that even the act of planning a trip can boost your bliss. Again, it makes sense when you think about it. Vacations are a success signal, something that tells us “you’ve arrived.” Taking our families away for a week, weekend, or even a day can help us feel like we’re providing for them beyond the basics, which makes us feel more accomplished overall.
How does all this translate to “traveling with girlfriends is good for your health”?
Again, scientists haven’t really studied the exact link between good health and traveling with friends, but it’s easy to see how they can work together for a better life. Both travel and friendships have many benefits in common, so you kind of get to double up on those benefits when you combine the two.
Traveling with girlfriends also lets you fully enjoy the experience without worrying about what someone else is doing every second. Vacationing with family is wonderful but consider how much time you spend making sure your kids actually eat a healthy meal, worrying about whether they’re wearing enough sunscreen, or panicking that you’ll get tossed from the hotel because your toddler is screaming after midnight. Your friends are quite capable of deciding what to eat for lunch, applying their own sunscreen, or making sure they respect the hotel’s “quiet hours” all on their own.
“Friendcations” may also improve the cognitive thinking benefit of travel. If you’re typically shy, for example, traveling with an outgoing friend can make it easier to engage with locals and experience more of the culture.
Plus, it’s just fun to get away from it all with your best girlfriends! You don’t need a scientific study to tell you that. So, go ahead and book that weekend beach trip. Your mind and body will thank you later.