In a world in which loneliness is at all time high, and division ever present, the power of friendship has never been more important. I am writing this blog as we approach the first Me Spot retreat in four years. If past weekends are anything to go by, it will be full of joy, laughter, and fun.
Out of it, existing friendships will be cemented and new ones formed. The connections will be deep and meaningful, and the memories long lasting. But it seems the effects will go a lot further than that. If the research is to be believed, the resulting health benefits will be unrivalled.
Psychologists have long been interested in the power of social connection. That has only increased in a post-Covid world, where many are still suffering from the effects of isolation and detachment. From the earliest times, the very survival of our species depended on our ability to work together and form meaningful relationships. Although the ‘threats’ we face are very different now, authentic interactions with others in whom we trust, are just as critical.
Friendship is the single most important thing affecting our psychological health and wellbeing, as well as our physical health and wellbeing. Professor Robin Dunbar
So, if ever you needed a reason to get out with the girls, there you have it!
It is worth noting that it is the quality of friendships rather than the quantity that matters. The number of Facebook friends is unlikely to cut it. In researching this piece, I found evidence to show that quality friendships can positively influence cardiovascular health, help to control blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, slow the progression of diseases of the brain such as Alzheimers, and even increase longevity. It is also thought that it may have an influence on survival rates following serious diseases such as cancer. One study suggested that the effects of missing out on regular social connection were on a par with being inactive, obese, or smoking.
Why is social connection so beneficial?
The answer appears to lie in the balance of our hormones, in particular oxytocin and cortisol. Oxytocin is present at childbirth and during breast feeding but it also linked to empathy and trust. When socialising with true friends, levels of oxytocin increase. This in turn lowers the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Over the last twelve years, Me Spot has grown into an incredibly special community which naturally embodies these principles. It is like a giant safety net that is always there behind the scenes, ready to catch someone when they need it most. When the going gets tough, Me Spot ladies do not look away, they lean in, always there to support and lend a hand. This was never more evident than during the Covid epidemic and it continues to this day.
It is also an uplifting place. We laugh, share experiences, have fun and enjoy so many special times together.
The Me Spot Magic
When I look at the group, I see a number of things that stand out and set them apart:
- Acceptance – everyone is different but everyone belongs. It is a group which embraces and celebrates individuality and does not judge. That in itself is a very rare find.
- Understanding – being at a similar stage in life, there are common issues faced by many. Knowing that others have gone through, or may even currently be going through, the same thing and can understand and empathise, is priceless.
- Protective – Me Spot ladies look out for each other. They are quick to spot when someone is not themselves and are always ready to step in and support if needed.
- Reactive – whenever anyone gets in a fix, help is always at hand. Whether it’s a leaky tap, a crashed computer or a medical professional, the network of contacts is extensive. There’s always someone who knows a (wo)man that can.
- Proud – of each other and ready to celebrate success and key milestones.
It is an incredibly special group.
Making time for friends is one of the best thing you can do for your health and wellbeing. How wonderful that something as enjoyable as sharing the company of such an amazing women, could be so beneficial. It should certainly figure in the list of non-negotiables. I know that this weekend’s retreat will prove that more than ever. That’s why we’ve named it ‘The Celebration Retreat’!