February 13 is Galentine’s Day. Ring a bell? This unofficial holiday got its start on an episode of Parks and Recreation in 2010. It’s taken hold in the culture and grown to be a date for women to celebrate female friendship.

To quote the founder, Parks & Rec’s Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler: “Every February 13, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” Whether or not you choose to include eggs and waffles in your Galentine’s Day celebration, appreciating the value of friends and friendship is a solid use of time here in non-sitcom real life.

Society regards friends as a nice add-on — supplemental after family relationships and finding and keeping a spouse. When your kids are little and your job is big, time with friends can take a backseat. That was my experience for a couple decades. But as the nest empties, the value of friends to a full and happy life becomes crystal clear. The benefits are tangible. For example:

  • You feel rich.
    Spending one evening a month laughing with friends brings you the equivalent happiness boost as a $12,500 annual raise. I can’t find the New Yorker article where I read this – but it stuck with me. Friends also contribute to achieving your goals and being successful, so you’ll have a better bank balance too.
  • You are healthier.
    Your friends help you cope with stress, and they may boost your immune system. Research shows female friends can raise your oxytocin level and even help you survive cancer. Plus, they share great recipes and healthy eating tips.
  • You take the pressure off your guy.
    We expect a lot of our husbands, boyfriends and partners. Should they have to listen to every detail of our lives? The men in our lives don’t mind if we cover a few dozen topics with our gal pals. Verbal processing over the phone or a glass of wine is one of life’s great joys.
  • You get a bridge over troubled water.
    Friends get us through difficult times. They soften the emotional sharp edges with listening and caring. And we get to return the favor, which is also a blessing.

This Galentine’s day and beyond, let’s not take friends and friendship for granted. You don’t need to buy all your besties a gift (or a personalized gift bag like Leslie Knope). Maybe just reconnect with old friends — they are irreplaceable. Appreciate work friends that make work a joy. Extend an invitation to casual friends who might become close friends.

Consider diversifying your friendship portfolio. Cultivate some friends from other generations, backgrounds or even (gasp!) political persuasions. Variety makes your friendship bouquet more interesting and beautiful.

At WriterGirl, it’s a bit like Galentine’s Day every day. Our team of talented, caring and dynamic women (and men) prioritize relationships and communication with each other, our clients and our outside-of-work lives. Really, it’s amazing. I’m grateful for these gals.

Happy Galentine’s Day!