Ever wonder why some people just seem healthier and happier? Sure, diet and exercise play a significant role, but one of the biggest influences of your overall well-being could be sitting right in front of you – your relationships. The connections you have with other people have a huge impact on your health and longevity. Don’t believe it? Research studies show isolation and loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On the flip side, strong social ties are linked to a 50% increased chance of living longer. The message is clear – relationships rule when it comes to your health. The good news is, whether it’s friends, family, or that weekly meetup group, you have the power to harness the benefits of human connection. Read on to discover simple ways you can simultaneously strengthen your relationships and boost your health.
Social connections stimulate feel-good hormones
Spending time with people you care about causes your brain to release oxytocin, the “love hormone” that makes you feel good and promotes feelings of contentment. Oxytocin also acts as an anti-inflammatory in your body, helping to ward off disease.
Relationships reduce stress and depression
Talking to others can help alleviate anxiety and negative feelings. While your friends and family can provide empathy, encouragement and distraction from worries and troubles, it’s important to note that it is not a substitute for therapy. Therapists are clinically trained to hold space for people with complex life challenges, feelings, and emotions – and will offer a neutral perspective. Oftentimes, therapists will recognize harmful patterns, beliefs, or biases that a trusted friend or family member would otherwise miss. Note that in time, their support can help build your resilience and ability to cope during difficult times.
Strong bonds encourage healthy habits
It’s important to remember that the people around you shape your lifestyle and behaviors. When your values are aligned, things like regular exercise, good nutrition, and limiting unhealthy habits become a natural part of your daily regimen. Not only are you more likely to adopt these positive practices yourself, but their influence and accountability help keep you on track.
Surround yourself with people who lift you up!
Spend less time with people who drain your energy and seek out those who inspire and motivate you. Their positive outlook can help reduce stress and boost your mood. Finding your tribe is incredibly important, and once you do, make sure to make an intentional effort to stay connected. If you’re still in touch with the folks you’ve known since wearing diapers, don’t forget to show them some love – and nurture those relationships just as you would with someone new.
Spread the good vibes
When you cultivate positive relationships, it creates a ripple effect that enhances the wellbeing of others and communities you serve. Spread kindness wherever you go, compliment strangers, volunteer your time, and mentor others to give back. With strong, supportive relationships in your life, you might just find your energy and optimism soaring. And when times get tough, you’ll have the backing of people who genuinely care about you. Now that’s vitality-enhancing!
Setting boundaries in toxic relationships to protect your mental health
When relationships in your life become unhealthy or toxic, it’s important to establish clear boundaries. Whether it’s a friend, family member or colleague, their negativity can seriously impact your wellbeing if left unchecked. Don’t be afraid to speak up and let others know their behavior is unacceptable. Politely but firmly tell them their actions are hurtful and you won’t tolerate disrespect. You may say something like: “Please don’t speak to me that way. I deserve to be treated with kindness.” If they continue to cross the line after you’ve asked them to stop, limit contact with them as much as possible. Your mental health must be the priority here.
Don’t feel guilty about distancing yourself from toxic people, even if they’re family. While you can’t control their actions, you can control your reactions and choose not to engage. Surround yourself with people who love and support you instead. If the relationship is salvageable, setting clear boundaries may even help improve your connection over time.
The most important thing is to recognize you deserve healthy, uplifting relationships that enrich your life. Don’t be afraid to make hard choices to protect your own wellbeing.
When a relationship becomes detrimental
If a relationship leaves you feeling chronically stressed, anxious, or depressed, it may be irreparable. Some signs it’s negatively impacting you include:
-You dread interacting or communicating with the person. Their mere presence evokes feelings of angst.
-You feel disrespected, manipulated or taken advantage of. The relationship lacks reciprocity, and you give far more than you receive.
-You no longer trust the person or feel you can confide in them. The foundation of intimacy and support has crumbled.
-You feel trapped like you can never do enough to please them or meet their unrealistic expectations. Their criticism makes you feel inadequate.
-The relationship is physically or emotionally abusive. No one deserves to feel unsafe or live in fear of their partner’s reactions.
In these situations, it’s best for your health and safety to distance yourself. Letting go of unhealthy relationships opens you up to nurturing new connections that enrich your life rather than drain your energy and joy. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are instead of trying to salvage something that isn’t healthy.
While life stressors are inevitable, surrounding yourself with a strong support system can help make those challenges feel more manageable. Call up a friend, laugh with your partner, play with your kids, sing in the shower if that’s your thing, and make social interaction a priority rather than an afterthought. Your wellbeing is a priority, and the benefits to your overall health are unprecedented. may just surprise you. Why not harness that power and let it work its magic?
Written By Nicole L. Townsend, Psychotherapist and Meditation Guide at Move Therapy and Wellness