How To Build Healthy Relationships – And Why

We need each other. We depend on each other. We literally cannot live without each other and we cannot be our happiest, our best, and our most productive without building healthy relationships.

TheExceleratedLife.com
healthy relationships

All Together Now

“We’re all in this together.” I can’t count the number of times nor the number of people from whom I have heard this sentiment over the past months of the pandemic. I suspect you’ve had a similar experience. From doctors on TV to product advertisements to personal injury lawyers to friends on Zoom, these words have been spoken again and again. “We’re all in this together.”

And even though hearing this sentence over and over can cause it to lose immediacy and significance, the underlying idea remains constant. In fact, this idea was just as true prior to the current situation as it is now. We are all in this together . . . and we always have been.

Relationships + Flourishing

Being in deep, healthy, positive relationships with others has always been a requirement for a life of flourishing and well-being. It is so important, Dr. Martin Seligman included it as one of the five components for flourishing in his PERMA concept: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. [Seligman] This is also the reason why I’ve incorporated it as one of the principles of living an Excelerated Life™.

Cultivating and tending to our relationships with other people contributes to better health, more positive emotion, and improved resilience. Relationships have always been important. They are especially so in the current environment.

Relationships – Quality + Quantity

We humans are social animals. There is a psychological theory that we have evolved with a powerful need to form and maintain strong, stable relationships. [Oppong] And not only romantic relationships but close friendships and other social connections are needed as well. As I said, we are social animals — it’s part of our makeup.

And while the number of ties we have is important, the quality and depth of our relationships matter too. [Greenberg]

Relationships + Health

One important area where healthy relationships make a difference is our physical health. Some studies indicate that solid relationships influence our overall health as much as getting sufficient sleep, healthy eating, and not smoking do. [Greenberg] Other studies have shown that satisfying relationships are associated with better health, greater happiness, even a longer life. [Greenberg] And again, this is true not only of romantic relationships but close friendships and other social ties as well. [Greenberg]

In fact, Jane Brody, writing in the New York Times, said: “People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.” [Oppong]

In addition to the direct health benefits associated with positive relationships, being in a supportive relationship motivates you to take better care of yourself and to live a healthier life. [Greenberg]

Relationships + Positivity

Christopher Peterson, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, said positive psychology could be summed up in three simple words: “Other people matter”. There are reasons why relationships are important to flourishing, the aim of positive psychology, and why Dr. Seligman specifically included them in the PERMA model. Here are a few.

In a 2002 study by Seligman and Ed Diener, another pioneer of positive psychology, they interviewed students who scored in the top 10% in a survey of personal positivity and happiness. The one feature that stood out for all of these students was their strong ties to family and friends and a commitment to spending time with them. [“Relationships”]

We appear to be wired to seek out social companionship. When we have good positive relationships, we are happy, content, calm. When we are in a poor, dysfunctional relationship, or feel alone and disconnected, we are lonely, depressed, and anxious. [Oppong]

However, as we now know, you cannot achieve happiness directly. Happiness is a by-product of other actions. Instead of setting your sights on being happier, focus on building your relationships. Improve your relationships and happiness will follow.

Relationships + Resilience

An appealing aspect of increased positivity is that it builds resilience, the ability to recover quickly from a setback. Social support may lessen the body’s biological response to stress, making us more resilient. [Greenberg]

One way strong social ties can help is to provide us ways to share personal feelings. “A problem shared is a problem halved.” Being able to share our feelings plays an important role in providing relief from stress or depression. [“Relationships”]

So, good, strong relationships are important to our health, our happiness, and our ability to bounce back from hardships and disappointment. But what are some ways we can build these strong relationships?

Cultivating Relationships

One of the fundamental rules of positive, loving relationships can be stated simply: “Listen and connect.” Research into love and relationships indicate some fundamental behaviors that are found in happy, healthy relationships. These are empathy, positivity, and a strong emotional connection. [Treleaven]

Here are three things to do to help deepen your relationships.

1) Practice the Platinum Rule.

You are probably familiar with the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. But I encourage you to take this a step further, with the Platinum Rule: “Treat every person with whom you come in contact as the most important person on earth.”

2) Practice Active-Constructive responding.

Psychologists have identified different ways we listen and respond to others, especially friends and loved ones. As we have discussed before, these include:

Active and Constructive – enthusiastic support. You react enthusiastically.

Passive and Constructive – quiet, understated support. You’re happy but generally unresponsive.

Active and Destructive – demeaning the event. You respond by focusing on the negative aspects of the news.

Passive and Destructive – ignoring the event. You are uninterested.

Build the habit of responding actively and constructively to good news and you’ll build up and strengthen your relationships.

3) Become emotionally responsive.

Emotional responsiveness is shown in our ability to respond emotionally to another person easily and spontaneously. And it reveals the extent to which a person is capable of developing intimate, lasting, non-defensive relationships with others. [Babylon]

Sue Johnson, clinical psychologist and the author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, writes: “The most important thing we’ve learned, the thing that totally stands out in all of the developmental psychology, social psychology and our lab’s work in the last 35 years is that the secret to loving relationships and to keeping them strong and vibrant over the years, to falling in love again and again, is emotional responsiveness.” [Johnson]

The First Step

We are all in this together. And we rely on each other to an extent that often goes unnoticed. We literally cannot live without each other and we cannot be our happiest, our best, and our most productive selves without developing healthy relationships.

“In the faces of men and women,” wrote the poet Walt Whitman, “I see God.” That is the basis for developing Excelerated Relationships™. And developing Excelerated Relationships is one step in embracing the Excelerated Life™!


Developing Excelerated Relationships™ — nurturing ties to other people — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.


Resources:

“Definition of Emotional Responsiveness.” Babylon NG. Babylon Software Ltd.,. Web. September 14, 2020.
https://dictionary.babylon-software.com/emotional%20responsiveness/#:~:text=Emotional%20responsiveness%20is%20revealed%20by,other%20people%2C%20attachments%20that%20are

Greenberg Ph.D., Melanie. “Do Relationships Make Us Healthier and Happier?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, December 22, 2016. Web. July 18, 2020.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201612/do-relationships-make-us-healthier-and-happier

Johnson, PhD, Sue. Hold Me Tight – Seven Conversations For A Lifetime Of Love. New York: Hatchette Book Group, Inc, 2008.

Oppong, Thomas. “Good Social Relationships Are The Most Consistent Predictor of a Happy Life.” Thrive Global. Thrive Global, October 18, 2019. Web. July 18, 2020.
https://thriveglobal.com/stories/relationships-happiness-well-being-life-lessons/

“Relationships.” The Pursuit Of Happiness. Pursuit of Happiness, Inc., . Web. July 18, 2020.
https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/communicating/

Seligman, Ph.D., Martin E. P. Flourish. New York: Free Press, 2011.

Treleaven, Sarah. “The Science Behind Happy Relationships.” Time. Time USA, LLC, June 26, 2018. Web. July 18, 2020.
https://time.com/5321262/science-behind-happy-healthy-relationships/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.