There is growing evidence that friendships are an integral part of our human experience. Nowhere is that truer than in the relationships women have with each other. Social psychologists have long understood that a sense of belonging is vital for individual growth on many levels.

Friendships sustain us when times are tough. They give us an outlet for our emotions – good or bad. For women, in particular, they are an essential part of life. They give us a sense of connection, someplace to gather and nourish our souls.

In women’s lives, according to a landmark UCLA study, girlfriends fulfill many functions in our lives. They help us to get over breakups, work through school, work, or relationship problems. They can fill emotional gaps in our lives and help us to find our center after something has gone wrong.

When struggling with interpersonal relationships or love relationships, having a circle of friends or one true friend can serve as a buffer between you and the person or person’s you’re clashing with. Girlfriends can listen to your problems, help you walk through scenarios, and help you connect with who you really are, without the pressure from outside forces. They know you better than you know yourself in many instances.

Engaging in meaningful conversations with people you trust helps our bodies to release oxytocin, the hormone that helps counter stress and produces a calming effect in women. The same is not true for men, according to studies.

The act of tending to or comforting someone else is also stress-reducing and promotes better health in the person providing the comfort. The Boston’s Nurses Health Study found that the more friends a woman has, the more opportunity they have to offer support, results in fewer physical impairments as the women age and they are more likely to lead joyful lives. Conversely, people with few friendships or confidantes reported more ailments, aches and pains, and less satisfaction overall.

Friendships are tantamount to a renewable energy source. This becomes even more evident when women band together for a cause or share their personal stories. As the saying goes, there is power in numbers. Women are more likely to share the stories of their lives. They listen and learn by listening to each other. But what they share with each other goes beyond the intimate details of their lives. For instance, subjects ranging from marital strife to what they’re reading or listening to right now will be discussed. In today’s climate, heavier subjects are discussed, like politics, movements, politics, and beyond. Women have seen power, used their power, and reinforced their bonds through their friendships to change the world.

For women, their friendships are grounded in deep, meaningful conversations. Women are masters of conversation. They are active listeners. They ask questions. They allow time for full answers. They are great at reading nonverbal cues. While it’s true there are men who can do the same; these traits are much more common in the female. Listening and empathizing are inherent natural skills women have. Society has often overlooked the strength and power of women, but time and time again, women have banded together, held firmly to their friendships, and made great strides in all aspects of life. They are champions of each other and champions for those who often don’t have a voice and don’t have the same human connections they hold dear to them.