Humans need humans to survive.
It’s no secret that a healthy relationship can bring joy and happiness to your life, but did you know that it can also have a positive impact on your physical health? From reducing stress levels to boosting your immune system, there are many surprising health benefits to being in a happy partnership. Read on to learn more.
We are social creatures who thrive on strong, healthy relationships with friends, colleagues and family members. Whether enjoying a walk with an old friend or going on a romantic date with your partner, fostering healthy relationships has a variety of mental and physical health benefits.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Healthy, Loving Relationships
Relationships produce strong emotions, both positive and negative.
When our relationships are healthy, we feel calm and at ease, knowing someone in the world is rooting for us. Knowing someone cares about our best interests makes it easier to face challenges and self-doubt.
In our bodies, chemicals such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, contribute to pleasurable experiences and happiness. For instance, oxytocin, which is commonly called the “love hormone,” is believed to be essential for bonding and trust. Similarly, dopamine and serotonin have been shown to increase when relationships are stable and loving.
On the flip side, ailing relationships can lead to feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety, isolation, and depression.
Unhealthy relationships can lead to an increase in cortisol (stress hormone). Cortisol is the central hormone secreted when a mammal is in a state of “fight or flight”. Too much stress and too much cortisol over the long term can lead to poor physical health, including heart issues, a weakened immune system, and increased inflammation.
Impact of Loneliness on Health
Loneliness can have dramatic consequences for your health. Loneliness can lead to sleep disturbance, increased blood pressure, and malcontent.
Human connection, on the other hand has been shown to lead to a better overall quality of life, higher self-esteem and even a lower risk of dementia.
It’s important to recognise that loneliness is different from being alone. Feeling lonely is a problem, but many people live alone and have happy, fulfilling lives. This is a good reminder that social connections can occur from any loving relationships, not just marriage or romantic partners cohabitating.
Feeling connected and having strong relationships is vital to our health. But what steps can you take to develop good relationships?
How to Maintain Healthy Relationships
I tell my clients, “the grass is always greener where you water it.” I remind them that no relationship is perfect and to make small changes with patience for yourself and your partner.
Having a healthy relationship is not hard, but it requires some TLC.
Communication is vital in any relationship. Be willing to discuss problems. If you recognize a problem in your relationship, raise it thoughtfully and respectfully. Don’t let the issue fester.
Worried about how to communicate your concerns? Use John Gottman’s Gentle Startup Formula:
I feel ____ about ___ and I need ___.
Practice what I call skydiving listening.
When your partner is in pain or stressed out, listen to them as if your life depends on it; the same way you’d listen to your skydiving instructor before jumping out of a plane. Don’t multitask. Don’t give unsolicited advice. And don’t talk about yourself.
Be Careful Not to Be Too Quick to Leave a Loving Relationship
We know the health and mental health benefits of feeling connected and cared for are significant.
Sometimes people make the mistake of leaving healthy relationships because they are so focused on what they are NOT getting from thier loved ones, that they take the positive qualities for granted.
Close relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners will still be challenging at times. You’ll occasionally disagree, hurt each other’s feelings, and maybe even think about cutting your loved ones off entirely. While of course, this is a difficult decision you can only make on your own, but you might consider trying to work to salvage a strained relationship so that you can both experience the love you deserve.
Resources that Can Help
Click here for a comprehensive list of free and affordable resources to help improve communication, decrease loneliness and improve relational health.