It’s Valentine’s Day, meaning love is on the mind.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Where there is love there is life.”
Whether you consider yourself a social butterfly, drawn to one-on-one interactions, or prefer your own company, there’s no denying that the quality of your personal relationships affects your levels of happiness, well-being, and physical health.
Relationships, whether social or intimate, make people happy. They constitute a vital part of well-being as we are wired for connection.
The benefits of social connections and good mental health are numerous. Studies have found that healthy relationships and good mental health can contribute to lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships.
Beyond the psychological effects, strong, healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and may even lengthen your life.
In contrast, loneliness can have negative consequences on your health, leading to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased cortisol — your body’s stress hormone. This can weaken your immune system and decrease your overall sense of happiness.
Loneliness is also a risk factor for antisocial behavior, depression, and suicide.
However, feeling lonely, or perceived social isolation, is different from actual social isolation. For instance, you could be surrounded by people and engaging in conversation but still feel lonely, although technically you’re socially connected.
It’s important to recognize that loneliness is different from solitude. Feeling lonely is a problem, but being alone may not be a problem at all. Many people live alone and have happy, fulfilling lives.
Feeling lonely is difficult. Luckily, there are things you can do to tackle it.
First, think about the type of relationships you currently have with people and the type of relationships you would like to have. You might find you want to make new friendships or want to try to make your existing relationships stronger.
One way to strengthen your social connections is to reach out to the people you already know — such as co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors.
There are many ways to meet new people! Try to branch out by starting a conversation with people you see every day — on your morning commute, at the gym, in your office, etc.
Another good way to make new connections is by trying new activities or volunteering in your community.
Improve and maintain current relationships
Improving your current relationships is a good way to help both your well-being and the happiness of your loved ones.
Being in conflict with your friends, family, or significant other can negatively affect both your health and theirs. Especially cardiovascular health.
It’s really important in any relationship to understand your significant other’s point of view and be open to compromise.
One of the ways to nurture healthy relationships is to practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude towards a partner can boost positivity for both parties. Relationships are hard work. You need to invest time in them. Make an effort to spend time together, accept one another, practice forgiveness and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Additionally, it’s sometimes thought that once people get married, they often “let themselves go” physically, but this isn’t true.
What actually happens is that we have a tendency to adopt similar habits to people we are close to, especially our spouses. So, it pays to encourage and join each other in healthy lifestyle choices, such as daily walks, joining (and going to) a gym, and eating nutritious meals.
Healthy relationships can add not only years to our lives but also give us a greater sense of purpose in the years that we have. You owe it to yourself and to those around you to nurture your close relationships – you’ll probably find it’s more than worth the effort.