Thinking about planning a girls' trip with your best friends? According to science, you should book that flight ASAP! Research supports that taking a trip with your friends can actually improve your mental health and long-term happiness, and as parents, we know that maintaining mental soundness is more important, and more challenging, than ever. So ladies, gather your best buds, line up childcare, pack your bags, and get away — for your sanity's sake.
You already know that hanging out with your friends feels great, but now there's science that explains why. In 2016, researchers found evidence that hanging out with friends, which they call "peaceful associations," increases the production of oxytocin, the hormone that floods our bodies when we're happy. (It also plays a role in the birthing process, baby bonding, and milk production, so moms can use all of that magical little hormone that they can get.) Oxytocin is released during positive social bonding experiences (hello, girls' trip) and can make people more trusting, generous, and friendly.
Need even more proof of the significance of your girls' getaway? Research conducted at Michigan State University in 2017 reinforced the importance of maintaining long-term friendships. In a pair of studies involving almost 280,000 people, researcher William Chopik found that friendships become an even more important predictor of happiness and health as we get older, even outpacing the importance of relationships with family members. The research concluded that friendships predict both day-to-day happiness and how long we'll live more than both spousal and family relationships.
We'd planned it for more than a year in advance, and expectations, and our needs to escape from real life for a few days, were high.
I recently put all of this research to the test by jetting off with 15 of my friends from college to jointly celebrate our 40th birthdays. Some of the women I've remained superclose to in the 18 years since graduation, as we've moved to different states, gotten married, and become parents, multiple times over. Others are those I mostly keep up with on social media and the occasional email, but all of them I have super "peaceful associations" (aka no drama) with.
Because we're 40 years old, flush with responsibility, collectively parents to more than 30 children between the ages of 10 months and 10 years old, and live in nine different states, this trip wasn't the spontaneous getaway of our youth. We'd planned it for more than a year in advance, and expectations, and our needs to escape from real life for a few days, were high.
We spent a weekend on the beach, retelling hilarious stories from college and beyond, catching up on our current lives, and drinking just a little too much wine. All that laughing, talking, and alcohol consumption meant that half of us lost our voices by the end of the trip, but all of us declared it completely worth it . . . even though our scratchy speech freaked out more than one of our kids. The weekend was the oxytocin hit I didn't know I needed so badly. We all left happier than when we were when we arrived, and we all agreed we needed to start planning the next trip as soon as we got our voices back.
So here's the takeaway: plan that trip with your friends now, even if you can't actually get away until 12 months from now. All the better if you plan it with women you really love and trust, who feel the same way about you; women with whom you have history with, or as science might say, long-term peaceful and positive associations. And when your spouse questions why you're taking time away from the family or spending money on a pricey flight, tell him that science told you to do it and that you'll be a happier partner, parent, and person because of it.