What's better than a girlfriend? Who else understands you, supports you, and defends you, no matter what? Who else makes you laugh one instant and shares your deepest darkest secret the next? Who else will care if someone's picking on you or is mean to you or is jealous of you? Yet for all its obvious advantages, a recent study on friendship warns there might be a dark side to your closest relationship. Although psychologists agree discussing your problems is a good thing and can lead to cheering up, they are finding out that too much talk might be too much of a good thing. "My best friend, Amy, gets off on going on and on at recess every day," admits Sophie, a sixth grader. "She has a crush on this boy who really doesn't like her back, and the more she talks about him the more upset she gets. I try to be sympathetic, but at this point, I really don't know how I can help her start cheering up." Girls tend to talk about what's bothering them a lot. We whisper in the halls and cry on the phone after school. We Instant Message about what's upsetting us, too. Without realizing it, all this rehashing and dwelling on negative feelings can turn a snowball of a problem into an avalanche of stress. Instead of cheering up, long-drawn-out pity parties tend to make us more anxious...and even depressed. That's not to say there aren't problems where talking can help. If you're worried about how to improve a C in science or how to get good enough at basketball to make the team, a friend can certainly come up with solutions to ease your pain and start cheering up. It's when the difficulties are in other areas, like relationships, where your lack of experience is the same as hers, when progress grinds to a halt. So what should you do when you have a problem that you've talked over with your best friend for a while that seems to have no solution? It might be time to add an adult to the conversation. The experience they bring to the discussion might rein in the commiserating and end the obsessing. Once you realize that talking about problems for too long is emotionally unhealthy, you can move away from the negative yammering and engage in other, more positive, cheering-up activities. Participating in sports is a great way to get your mind off situations that are not easily controlled. Even going for a walk or listening to music —any effort to change your mind-set to start cheering up —will keep you from picking at a psychic wound and give you a chance to heal. No one can promise you will never feel sad or anxious or overwhelmed. Just remember that when you do, try not to become consumed by complaining. Don't wait till your grades and sleep are affected. After discussing it once or twice with your friend, stop. Don't talk her ear off. If your mood doesn't lift, it's time to let her off the hook and look for advice and support elsewhere.
Learn about cheering up and get helpful tips for loving life at BeingGirl.com.