Good relationships are the cornerstone of mental health and well-being.
They are a vital part of being able to withstand the vicissitudes of life.
If I were to think of the hardest times of my life, my friends and family’s support made all the difference. Their support, love, and comfort=priceless.
The people in my life who I know are with me through thick and thin…truly one of life’s greatest blessings.
Reflect on your own hardships and the most trying moments of your life. Who were the people who stood by your side and helped you make it through? Who had your back no matter what? What relationships have endured the test of time?
The fact is it is easy to be there for someone when times are good. It is when times are bad when we see the true colors of everyone in our lives.
Sadly, it is during tough times when the people we may have thought cared about us may reveal they do not care as much as we had previously assumed. The pain of this truth can be tremendous.
As painful as this may be, it makes you all the more appreciative of all the supportive, loving people in your life. You recognize the value these relationships are to your well-being.
That is what this post is about–the importance of nurturing good, healthy relationships. And the responsibility you having in doing so.
It is all too easy to neglect our relationships. Life happens–marriage, kids, careers, running a household. Listen, I get it! You are busy. You can only juggle so much!
But if you were to think of the happiest moments in your life–the majority of them most likely entailed being surrounded by ALL the people you love most. Weddings, parties, baptisms, graduations, housewarmings, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, vacations. Happy memories are usually the times we spent with the ones we love and cherish the most.
In our fast-paced, always on the go world, it has become all too easy to forget that a happy life runs parallel with loving, supportive relationships. We are social animals. We are designed to be connected to others.
As an extremely individualistic society, we often think what will bring us long-lasting happiness are results of our individual pursuits. Our career success, our financial success, our individual goals.
But our communal goals are shown to bring more long-term happiness. We are all in this together, let’s not forget. Our relationships are a source of much of our joy in life. Our families, our circle of friends, the colleagues we are close with. Research shows close, supportive relationships bring more happiness than fame or money.
These are the people we laugh with, cry with, share with, vent with, help with. Our close relationships bring much of the happiness we experience on our journey through life.
Yet at the same time—-what is it that cause of the most unhappiness in our lives?
Much of the state of our relationships are a reflection on us. Our actions, our thoughts, our behavior. OR our inaction, negative thoughts, negative behavior. We are a large part of our relationship problems.
The problem is–many people do not want to take ownership of this fact. It is much easier to blame the other person than look at how we contribute to problems in our relationships.
Many of us don’t want to do our part.
Let’s be honest. We put care and effort into the things we value. If you value a certain relationship, you will put in the effort to maintain it, protect it, and keep it.
If you were to reflect on your relationships that you have lost throughout your life, at a certain point, if you were honest…you stopped putting in the effort. You stopped caring. Maybe with good reason–you outgrew the other person OR this was a relationship with a person who had not treated you right but you had tolerated for far too long. Part of life is loss and this includes losing relationships that no longer serve us.
Or maybe it was the reverse situation. The other person showed you they didn’t care. They didn’t put in effort. They didn’t value you or the relationship. They forced your hand into walking away.
If you were to reflect on the relationships you lost along the way, can you pinpoint a time when you felt the cons outweighed the pros of maintaining it? I think if we are honest with ourselves we can. Or can you pinpoint a moment when you realized the other person didn’t care to maintain the relationship?
Any relationship in my life that has survived the test of time I have put effort into maintaining. The other person has put the effort in as well. It takes two.
Relationships with family members, friends, my partner. I value these relationships and I do what I can to support the individual and the relationship as a whole.
If you want to be mentally healthy research says having meaningful relationships will help you to fight off feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. Having people to share your concerns, hopes, fears, and challenges with help you stay connected and stable.
Close relationships fight off feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is a silent killer. Social isolation is shown to lead to depression. Being connected is a fundamental human NEED. We all need to feel a sense of love and belonging.
The reality is if you want the benefits of supportive relationships you need to CHOOSE to put effort into being a supportive, healthy person. You get what you give. It very much takes a choice to invest in the relationships in our life.
The truth is our relationships are very much a choice.
Our behavior is a choice. Our relationships are a reflection of our choices.
William Glasser, the father of choice theory, says virtually all our behavior is a choice. He posits that most mental health issues, including depression, arise from problems in one’s relationships.
I think in popular psychology this concept has played out to a large extent. Many psychological theories focus on the issues that arise from unhealthy relationships with one’s parents. Oedipus complex. Electra complex.
I can say that I have seen as a clinician direct correlation between people who have bad relationships with their parents and their mental health.As a society we jokingly refer to this as having “mommy issues” or “daddy issues” but there is far from a joking matter.
Our relationships, especially key ones like the ones we have with our parents, impact our mental health.
Our relationships have a profound impact on our lives. This is why people who are often in unhealthy or abusive relationships tend to suffer a whole host of mental health ailments. The people we spend the most time with can build us up or break us down.
It is also why people from dysfunctional families tend to develop anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Our relationships have a direct impact on our mental health.
This is why it is so important to be choosy with who you allow into your life. Who we have relationships with is indeed a CHOICE. It is a choice to keep unhappy relationships in our lives.
It is also a choice to manufacture problems in a relationship. There are ways of behaving that we bring into our relationships that can either enable healthy, happy relationships or destroy our relationships.
|Seven Caring Habits||Seven Deadly Habits|
|1 .Supporting||1. Criticizing|
|2 .Encouraging||2 .Blaming|
|3. Listening||3. Complaining|
|4. Accepting||4. Nagging|
|5. Trusting||5. Threatening|
|6 .Respecting||6. Punishing|
|7. Negotiating differences||7 .Bribing, rewarding to control|
I ask you to reflect on your behavior in your relationships. Which side of this chart do you find your behavior is more aligned with?
When it comes to our relationships, far too many of us are winging it! We are on autopilot without any conscious thought to how we approach the people we love in our lives.
In choice theory, the emphasis is placed on the individual. Personal responsibility is at the forefront. We, and we alone, are responsible for our behavior. An underlying assumption of the theory is that we cannot change other people and that the only thing we can control is ourselves.
Again, you may be thinking that this sounds obvious – of course, we can’t change other people! But the reality is many of us are always trying!
Control. It can become a problem for us if we begin to lose control of ourselves and attempt to exert control over others. As long as we insist on controlling people around us, we will create completely unnecessary suffering in our lives.
Often when we are upset, instead of looking at how we are feeling and behaving we look at others.
The most unhappy people point the fingers at others for their pain and unhappiness.
Many times, the way people try to remedy relationship problems is by attempting to change others.
But what if we instead focused on changing ourselves? Something we can actually be successful at. If we change our behavior, it will certainly impact the response we get from others.
If you want to have happy, healthy, enduring relationships you need to look at YOUR behavior and how you behave in your relationships.
Is your behavior driving people towards you or driving people away from you?
To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):
Anew Counseling Services LLC
617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649