Life. Sometimes it feels light, bouncy and fun, other times it can feel heavy, fatiguing and overwhelming. There can be so many reasons for the latter, from the overloading of information and duties onto ourselves, to the hyperconnected way in which we now live with our digital lives, to pressures from the outside world whether imagined or real, to pressures we put upon ourselves, to suddenly being faced with life changes, to interpersonal conflict.
We want to survive and we want to thrive, and to do both there are powerful research-backed resilience and well-being strategies we can rely on. One such strategy for resilience, well-being and good mental health is getting around people, people that help you to feel positive emotions. People you have positive relationships with can help lift you out of heavy times. The more weighed down you feel, the heartier the dose of ‘people power’ you’ll need, and the longer you’ll need to maintain an ongoing dose until you feel light, bouncy, fun and free again. We’re starting to talk more about mental health and well-being and in that arena there are a number of effective remedies that really stand out to me, all of which I cover with research in my new book Anxiety Free, things like physical exercise (cardio, strength training and yoga), nature, mindfulness, and positive relationships. Positive relationships, however, is the one that we don’t hear quite so much about just yet, but – as you can probably imagine – I added a chapter dedicated to relationships in both Resilient Me and Anxiety Free because relationships can be a source of stress, anxiety, resilience and calm.
From a bird’s-eye view, positive relationships help us to live longer, happier and healthier (Waldinger, 2015). On a day-to-day level, people you have positive relationships with, can:
- help buffer you from pain,
- help give you a new perspective on challenges,
- help you to raise your self-image from falsely negative to realistically positive,
- help you to regain self-compassion when you’re being overly critical towards yourself,
- help you to believe in yourself,
- help you to work out and implement solutions,
- help you to replenish your resilience when you have obstacles to confront,
- help you to feel connected, and thus safer, when you feel lonely,
- and show you how you add to their life, too.
Positive relationships are healing and exhilarating. So, use positive relationships for a quick pick-up me up resilience boost, and use positive relationships when you need to calm your brain down and regain your optimism.
3 Well-Being Tips:
♥ Socialising with family and friends is an effective happiness-building technique (Quoidbach et al., 2015) so ask your friends if they want to meet up, whatever day of the week it is. Though you may not typically socialise wth friends on a Monday evening, for example, it can provide a great start to your week, much like attending a motivational seminar, or a business networking meeting. And it doesn’t need to be glamorous or exciting to the world, just the two of you – connecting, soothing and elevating each other.
♥ If your family and friends are busy, meet with other humans. Whether you seek out a one-off class (cookery, pottery, dance) or attend a meet-up group as a one-off, or continue to attend frequently, getting around other humans can be very beneficial. Consider this: loneliness and isolation, even just subjective feelings of loneliness and isolation, can shorten your lifespan as much as obesity can (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015).
♥ We gain happiness and resilience from giving (Aknin et al. 2015; Alessi, 2016). Even when we’re facing great hardships ourselves, giving to others can help us to maintain resilience, so when you feel knocked sideways or you feel sore, be sure to factor in some time where you help others as this can boost your own mental well-being and inner strength.
Spending time around loving, or even just pleasant, people is a powerful and effective mental health and happiness boost. When you need uplifting and re-energising, spend time in the company of the good people in your life or out there in the world, and know that you may require multiple doses until you feel light and free enough to continue on the next leg of your journey (life).
Aknin, L. B., Broesch, T., Hamlin, J. K. and Van de Vondervoort, J. W. (2015). ‘Prosocial Behavior Leads to Happiness in a Small-Scale Rural Society’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(4): 788–95.
Alessi, E. J. (2016). ‘Resilience in sexual and gender minority forced migrants: A qualitative exploration’. Traumatology, 22(3): 203–13.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T. and Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2):227–37.
Quoidbach, J., Gross, J. J. and Mikolajczak, M. (2015). ‘Positive Interventions: An Emotion Regulation Perspective’. Psychological Bulletin, 141(3): 655–93.
Waldinger, R. (2015). ‘What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness’, USA: TED Conferences.
Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness/transcript?language=en