We are more complicated as women than we know. We are more intense about what matters most in life as we age. We earn a deep sense of gratitude across our life span, and it just keeps growing, the longer we live. Overall, women’s happiness ratings are consistently higher than those of men, and a recent U.K. study showed that the happiest people are women aged 65-79.

There are reasons why women are happier than men, and one is that women tend to be healthier, more active, and live longer because of their close relationships with family and friends. Women aren’t reluctant to have intimate conversations, and to talk about their own deep feelings, as well as to help friends discuss theirs. Many women are blessed to have friendships that are decades-old and serve as established sources of companionship, and comfort.

We develop lifelong skills in building happiness by increasing our capacity for humor, concern for other people, and a sense of gratitude. We reap rich rewards and cultivate our emotional resilience with the loving help of our women friends. Here are a few of the specific benefits we receive:
1. Research shows that when we are sharing an experience with other women, our bodies mutually produce oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” partly because it is released in moms when they’re nursing and when we are emotionally bonding to others. That’s why women are drawn to sewing circles, knitting circles, book clubs, and the like, because these gatherings consistently generate a warm glow that feels great, builds mutual trust, and soothes anxiety.

2. Laughter brings relaxation, protects the heart, and is a powerful generator of endorphins, those brain chemicals that help us deal with stress and reduce feelings of pain. Just spend time with a gal pal and no matter how serious the conversation gets, eventually we will find something to laugh about in bursts of spontaneous humor. These eruptions of shared laughter help us keep things in perspective. When I was trained in Gestalt therapy, I was taught that humor is like a “martial art” because it helps cut scary memories and circumstances down to size, helps us see the ridiculous side of life, and strengthens our immune system.

3. Women friends provide compassionate emotional support, and respond in times of crisis, with what is termed a “tend and befriend” approach that is both protective and strengthening. This is more effective than a “fight or flight” response in reducing tension and creating access to creativity. It generates a greater awareness of possible solutions, and reveals hidden insights that might otherwise be missed.

Thus, we are all shaped by our close women friends’ guidance, love, and encouragement over time. Through our shared enrichment, we are each inspired to become a better person. We are influenced by honest feedback, and the unwavering trust and commitment that is invested in our relationships. Even when friendship ends, by death, a move across the country, or an unreconciled misunderstanding, we still hold memories in our hearts that are loving tributes to the life lessons we have learned from one another. In honor of our dear women friends, here is a toast written by Amy Rees Anderson, “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”