There are three simple words that have the power to lower our stress and prevent depression and anxiety: I can relate!
The Power of acknowledging that I can relate
The other day I was sharing a difficult situation with a friend. After I had talked for a bit, her enthusiastic and resounding first words were “I can relate!” I immediately felt understood, comforted, validated, reassured – and normal. It’s almost like saying I can relate! was her superpower that had the ability to transform my discouraged feelings into energized action.
Lack of Support = Risk in Pregnancy
Almost every study on emotional support in pregnancy has shown that pregnant women who lack emotional support from friends or spend little time with trusted friends have a much higher risk of both depression and anxiety. The opposite is also true. Good friends protect us from depression and anxiety.
The Science of I can relate!, Pregnancy, and Motherhood
The science behind I can relate! is incontrovertible. Friends are a significant part of our emotional health, especially in pregnancy. Here are a few facts:
- When we spend time with friends, it lowers our risk of depression by almost 50%.
- When pregnant women are supported by friends, their risk of depression in pregnancy lowers – by 70 to 75%. And, their risk of postpartum depression decreases.
- When new moms have strong friendship support, their chance of developing postpartum depression drops.
What I find especially interesting is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, what country you live in or where you were born (including Africa, Canada, US, UK, China, Turkey, Iran plus many more), what your job is, or how much money you make. Support from friends, just like support from partners, are important to women’s emotional health.
We Need a Friendship Revolution
In our hyper-connected society, it’s hard to believe that friendship is in trouble. But, over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a steady decline in the amount of time Canadians spend with friends. In 1994, we spent 104 minutes per day with friends. By 2014, we were spending an average of 84 minutes per day – a 20 minute per day drop.
Much like we’re seeing a sleep revolution, I believe we need to create a friendship revolution. We need to get back to the basics, keeping friendship as part of an emotionally healthy lifestyle. Having coffee together. Connecting regularly. Taking time to listen and make another feel heard. Taking the time to be heard. Yes, there is a price to be paid in terms of time and energy.
But it’s worth it. For the sake of your emotional health, connect with a friend.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the value of friendship for emotional health and what strategies you use to stay connected.