Human relationships may be complicated, but they are an integral part of our lives. Depending on how healthy or supportive our relationships with others are, they can either build or break us.
As humans, we have an innate need to connect with others. We need interaction to feel fulfilled and happy. Healthy relationships with other people will help us feel less alone and more secure, which is very important for our mental health, overall well-being, and how well we do in life.
Our personal growth may seem like a solo pursuit, but we thrive more when we have support.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, explain how close relationships help individuals thrive.
According to the research, thriving involve five components of well-being:
- Happiness and life satisfaction;
- Having purpose and meaning in life and progressing toward meaningful life goals;
- Psychological well-being (positive self-esteem, absence of mental health symptoms/disorders);
- Social well-being (deep and meaningful human connections, faith in others and humanity, positive interpersonal expectancies);
- Physical well-being (healthy weight and activity levels, health status above expected baselines).
The researchers found that positive relationships boost thriving in two ways: enabling the person to thrive through adversity and enabling the person to thrive in the absence of adversity.
Supportive and healthy relationships help people thrive through adversity not only by buffering individuals from damaging effects of stress but also by enabling them to flourish either because or despite their circumstances.
Brooke Feeney, one of the researchers, said, "Relationships serve an important function of not simply helping people return to baseline, but helping them to thrive by exceeding prior baseline levels of functioning, and the core purpose of this support function is the promotion of thriving through adversity."
In the absence of difficulties, supportive relationships help people to embrace and seek opportunities that enhance positive well-being, broaden and build resources, and foster a sense of purpose and meaning in life. According to the researchers, this form of support serves as an active catalyst for thriving, and the core purpose of this support function is the promotion of thriving through life opportunities.
Close, supportive, and positive relationships can be with friends, parents, siblings, spouses, significant others, or mentors. When building relationships, it is essential to note that it's not just the quantity of friends you have or whether you're in a committed relationship that matters, but the quality of your relationships. Living in conflict or a dysfunctional relationship is more destructive than living alone.
As individuals, we must invest in building and maintaining good and positive connections and removing barriers that can hinder us from forming them. They are as crucial as our healthy diets and exercises.
Here are our five starter packs when investing in good relationships:
- Be intentional about connecting with friends and family. Give and set aside more time with them.
- Be present in and at the moment when with family and friends. Refrain from checking your phones and switch out of work mode whenever possible.
- Actively listen to what other people are saying in a nonjudgmental manner and focus on their needs at the time.
- Be willing to open up yourself with other people. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable when sharing your feelings and thoughts.
- Be active in recognizing unhealthy relationships. Learn to let go of toxic people so that you can move on.
To build positive and healthy relationships, we have to cultivate and nurture them like a garden.
This means that you cannot just do things for the other person or expect the other person to do things for you. Instead, you should expect that both parties are doing their fair share of work to maintain the relationship – it must be mutual.
We can't just take and take; we should also give. On the other hand, we can't just give and give and receive nothing. We must fill our cups from time to time to not run dry.
If you are struggling with maintaining healthy relationships with others, try to assess yourself. If this is hard for you to do, consider getting professional help. While you are ultimately responsible for how you choose to respond to any given situation, there are times when it is okay to feel helpless so that you can accept help from others.