When you think of building a healthy life, what are the top ingredients for you?
Eating right? Plenty of money? Fame? Leaving a legacy to your family?
Research shows that healthy relationships are actually most important. And it’s backed by recent research.
Our relationships with others come in different flavors — romantic, platonic, polite, uneasy, civil, confusing, unconditional, one-sided. We, humans, tend to neatly fit relationships into categories: friendships, work, business, and marriage. So which ones are healthy for us and which ones aren’t?
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the recent research of relationships and its impact on our overall health. Plus, you’ll learn some tips on how to nurture social ties for a healthier, better you.
The Science of Relationships and Its Impact on Our Health
As part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a team of scientists in 1938 decided to track the health of 268 Harvard sophomores for clues to what makes a good, healthy life. To date, the researchers eventually expanded their research to include the men’s offspring.
Since the beginning of the study, researchers asked the men about their lives, work, and health, with the hope that some pattern will pan out from these bite-sized stories.
After following the surviving men (19 of them are left!) for nearly 80 years, the researchers concluded that it’s more than just having good genes!
It’s the Quality of Your Social Relationships that Matter
According to the researchers’ findings, it turns out that flourishing later in life is a function of close ties with your family, friends, and community. It had nothing to do with social class, work achievements, fame, wealth, genes, and even IQ.
Furthermore, they discovered that good relationships protect our brains (not just our bodies) from further decline. The researchers found out that that being attached to a close relationship in your 80s has protective benefits to one’s cognitive function. These people had sharper memories while those men who don’t have close relationships that they can count on experienced gradual decline in memory.
3 Simple Steps to Nurture Relationships
For a start, aim for quality over quantity. Here are three simple ways to nurture existing relationships or make new ones into meaningful, lifelong ties.
1. Establish clear boundaries.
What do boundaries have to do with healthy relationships? First off, saying yes to everyone – from work to home to school will almost always end up with feelings of resentment on your end. The more resentful you become, the more chances of you feeling stressed. When you’re stressed, this will also take a toll on your physical and mental health. Here’s a quick guide to establishing healthy boundaries by the Headspace team.
2. Spend more time together in “real time.”
It’s quite easy to keep in touch with someone these days through a Facebook comment, a short email, or sending them a quick text message. But it’s not the same as spending more time with friends and family in “real time.” Brief contact with someone online regularly doesn’t replace face-to-face interaction.
3. Make a conscious effort to nurture relationships.
It’s common to overlook relationships over career, domestic responsibilities, or school. Pay close attention to your existing relationships, reflect on which ones you want to nurture, and make an effort to make that person feel heard and valued. Keep in mind that people have different love languages – some would live to receive gifts as a gesture of being valued while others prefer words of affirmation.
In a nutshell, be mindful of your tendencies to isolate yourself from your social network. While you may be introverted (and that’s okay!), social interaction, human connection, and building meaningful relationships are still essentials to a good life.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your health using holistic and functional medicine in Frederick, Maryland and neighboring areas, stop by at Hauser Health when you have the time.