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How many close friends does a woman need to be happy?

Feeling overwhelmed by too many commitments? Find out how many friends are too many and why you should reassess how many you see every day.

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women enjoying natchos

Masterfile

Anxious, irritable, stressed—if you’ve ticked all three boxes you may want to pause and consider why you’re feeling so under the gun all the time. It may not just be work, family (don’t get me started on you-know-who, OK?) or your hopeless finances (credit cards!)

It may be something even more basic that’s got you down: you don’t have enough close female confidants. To improve your mood and reduce your stress levels, you may need to add a few more sassy gal pals to your friend roster, women whose support, humour and interest in your seemingly unfixable problems will help lighten the Sisyphean load that is life, work and the daily struggle to fit in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity.

A recent article in The Vancouver Sun outlined the importance that intimate same-sex friendships have for women throughout their lives. As the article’s author Misty Harris points out, studies suggest that having a tight, core group of sympathetic ladies to laugh and talk with reduces stress and may even increase longevity.

How many friends make the difference emotionally in women’s lives? Research suggests that between two and four close pals can positively affect a woman’s overall well-being, reducing stress levels, increasing happiness and enhancing coping abilities.

The life-affirming bonds of deep and abiding female friendship even translate across species. Harris cites a study by primatologists that found that female baboons that possess at least three same-sex friends are less likely to experience stress than those female baboons who just can’t seem to make brunch — ever.

One of the reasons why these close friendships may reduce stress is physical: research indicates that female friendships tend to be more nurturing than male-on-male friendships, a circumstance that releases the bonding/feelgood chemical oxytocin. These emotional and physical benefits of intimate, well-tended friendships put the pursuit of other, less emotionally satisfying goals in greater perspective.

Positive psychology expert, Caroline Adams Miller said as much to The Sun.

Said Miller: “In the western world, we mistake more money as better; bigger houses as better; more friends as better. But the research keeps calling us back to the fact that we should be going deep, not wide.”