Valentine’s Day definitely puts love on the brain.
Mahatma Ghandi once wrote, “Where there is love there is life.”
Whether you consider yourself a social butterfly, more inclined to one-on-one interactions, or prefer solitude, there’s no denying that the quality of your personal relationships affect your levels of happiness, well-being, and physical health.
Relationships – whether social or intimate – make people happier and contribute to joy in our lives. They constitute a vital part of well-being.
We are wired for connection.
The benefits of social connections and good mental health are numerous.
Studies include lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships.
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 for your health.
Loneliness can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased cortisol (a stress hormone).
It can weaken your immune system and decrease your overall sense of contentment.
Loneliness is also a risk factor for antisocial behavior, depression and suicide.
However, feeling lonely, or perceived social isolation, is different than 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 hard to cope with. Luckily, there are things you can do to tackle loneliness.
Think about the sorts of relationships you have with people, and the sorts of relationships you would like to have. You might find you want to make new friendships, or perhaps you 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 or neighbors.
There are lots of ways to meet new people. Start a conversation with people you see everyday – on your morning commute, at the gym, etc.
You can try out new activities or volunteer in your community.
Improve and maintain current relationships
It’s sometimes believed that once people get married, they often “let themselves go” physically.
What is generally the case is that we tend to adopt similar habits to those 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.
In addition, being in conflict with your significant other can negatively effect health. Especially their 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.
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 at least a few close relationships – you are likely to find that doing so is more than worth the effort.