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My Secret Girls’-Night-Out Hack to Get Happy In Your Body + Feel Healthy

Hi, I’m Alex!

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“The morning started in good fun until someone suggested an all-you-can-drink mimosa brunch,” my friend confessed with guilt in her voice. “Too many drinks and a plate of French toast later, then we hit up that new gluten-free bakery. Then we popped over to Century 21 to check out their new line and I immediately backed out of trying anything on after the sugar bombs I ate.”

Blame it on too many Sex and the City/Girls episodes or just social conditioning. As women, we think an evening (or afternoon, for that matter) outing can’t be complete without shopping, devouring a sugar bomb together, or keeping the party going with a few glasses of chardonnay.

Why is this the only way we think we can let loose together?

Don’t get me wrong. As a health and life coach, I still love a nice glass champagne, can’t imagine life without chocolate, and get a serotonin high finding a killer bargain on the Century 21 clearance racks. But when those things become your staple activities, the results can be disastrous for your body, budget, and peace of mind.

Let’s rethink the chips-and-margarita girls’ night out. We need to reinvent fun and foster the supportive community we once found among our tribe, and play becomes the perfect way to do that.

 

In one episode of Parks & Recreation (one of my favorite shows), Amy Poehler’s character celebrated her girlfriends with Galentine’s Day.

That’s not a typo: Thanks to that episode, on February 13th my girlfriends and I celebrate self-love and love for each other. Galentine’s Day is the perfect manifestation of play: Celebrating helps validate your bestie for the amazing woman she is, create new memories, and even create a culture of healthy bragging.

Truthfully, any day can be a Galentine’s Day. Yeah, the following day gets the glory, but celebrating and strengthening female bonds becomes a great way to also cultivate self-love.

When we connect more authentically and vulnerably, we women thrive. We reduce the stress and constant demands that fill our days. Women have a secret superpower called “tend and befriend” that’s healing and fun.

It’s true: men and women just handle stress differently. For guys, increased testosterone kicks off a fight-or-flight reaction, whereas estrogen-driven women bond more deeply because of oxytocin.

In other words, when we get stressed or otherwise have a bad day, we “tend” to people who are hurt, down, or need extra love, helping them heal and recover. And we “befriend” to form tighter, more stable connections. This wonderfully adaptive tool fosters camaraderie, alleviates stress, and lets us revel in our fabulous femaleness.

Too often, though, these bonding experiences revolve around food, alcohol, and other crutches that can distract us from being our most open, authentic selves.

“When ‘taking the edge off’ with a couple of glasses of red wine becomes a routine, our experiences of joy and love and trust will become duller, too,” writes Brene Brown in Rising Strong. “With less positive emotion in our lives, we are drawn to numbing.”

Numbing – whether that means online shopping, downing a few glasses of pinot noir watching Grace and Frankie, or making a midnight Chunky Monkey freezer raid – becomes the opposite of tend and befriend: Shutting ourselves off from the world and the close bonds we need to feel happy and complete.

On the other hand, when I emote or let my emotions out with women I love and trust –laughing, crying, excited talking, or otherwise showing my authentic, vulnerable self – I stimulate bonding and relaxing hormones that help me feel happier and more at ease.

A day where you get together with your favorite women in celebration makes a great way to optimize oxytocin and other hormones. Among its benefits, studies show building friendships as adults:

  •       Increases your sense of belonging and purpose
  •       Boosts happiness and reduces stress
  •       Improves self-confidence and self-worth
  •       Helps you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss, or losing a loved one
  •       Encourages you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

When you cultivate healthy, supportive friendships, you optimize feel-good hormones like oxytocin and endorphins, shifting your body into a prime metabolic and digestive state. (Yes, laughing and crying with girlfriends can be good for your digestion!)

Who needs guilt-inducing taco-and-tequila night when you and your girlfriends can create these Galentine’s Day ideas instead:

  1.     Bounce around (or just move more)! Trampoline parks like Sky Zone are a great way for women to have physical fun together. So are roller skating, roller blading, or taking a run or brisk walk along the park. One study found engaging in group exercise becomes more effective to increase endorphin levels.
  2.     Have an improv comedy or stand-up night: Beyond reducing stress, studies show people who laugh more have higher endorphin levels that contribute to social bonding. Studies show when you do improvisational comedy (improv), “fear of failure loses its sting—a net of support is constructed from the openness, trust, and acceptance expressed within the ensemble. Individual vulnerability creates collective strength.”
  3.     Have a cry-fest movie night! One minute she’s so happy/ Then she’s crying on someone’s knee/ Saying, laughing and crying/ You know it’s the same release,” sang Joni Mitchell in the song “People’s Parties.” She was onto something there: contrary to what you might think, crying releases endorphins just like laughing. That might sound antithetical, but think about the last time you had a good sob: You probably felt better and less tense, right? Choose a sure-to-tear-up weep-fest (Beaches? Steel Magnolias, anyone?), whip up some healthy snacks, and keep the tissues nearby.
  4. Set up a bad art party. In honor of Galentine’s Day last year, I hosted 6 women at my apartment. We put together our random craft and art supplies in a big pile and got creative. “Bad is the new perfect!” I announced, allowing my girlfriends to be silly, “color outside the lines,” and not worry about getting things “right.” Needless to say, we had a blast, and created some fun crafts!

My challenge to you is to create (and maybe even host) your own gathering and enjoy some fun with your favorite women. Some ways to do that include:

  1. Text a couple of friends and plan a Saturday afternoon “play date” together.
  2. Come up with a few ideas that would be playful and fun. (see ideas above)
  3. Commit to a healthy day with little-to-no alcohol or sugar.
  4. Take some pictures and share online with the hashtag #HerPlayDate!

 

Play becomes the ideal way to foster bonds among other women, strengthen your relationships, and cultivate self-love. 

Take the Play Pledge and make a plan with your besties on Saturday, April 29th!

The first annual Her Play Date is a day where we women decide to make play a priority. Go sign up and download the free playbook here: http://www.HerPlayDate.com

 

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