By now we all know the pillars of good health: get plenty of rest and drink plenty of clean water. Make sure your diet consists mostly of organic fruits and vegetables and eliminate all refined sugars and processed foods. Don’t forget to exercise and never under any circumstances smoke. Oh, and drink alcohol only in moderation.
Did I forget anything?
As a matter of fact, I did leave off one very important aspect of our overall well-being and that’s having a quality social life consisting of healthy relationships. The importance of surrounding yourself with people whose company you enjoy isn’t just some hippie, woo-woo theory, it is now backed by scientific studies of hundreds of thousands of people.
Researchers at Harvard studied the same 600+ people for 75 years and learned a lot about what determines a long and happy life. These studies are some of the longest-running regarding a person’s overall health and happiness.
It turns out much of what determines that is the quality of relationships in your life. People with good relationships simply live longer.
If you’d like to live the longest and happiest life, then you need to have good platonic and romantic relationships. Here are some ways you can maintain a healthy relationship:
Make the Relationship a Priority
When we’re young, it’s easy to spend time with our friends. We see them on the bus, at school, and on the football field. As we age, it becomes harder and harder to spend quality time with friends. Adult responsibilities seem to take all of our time and attention.
Since you don’t have infinite hours in a day, you will need to prioritize your relationships. Who is an acquaintance and who is a true friend? Once you’ve prioritized, be sure to make time each week or month to enjoy your friend or significant other’s company. Show them how much they mean to you.
Always Be Honest
Many of us are surrounded by phony facades instead of genuine friendships. We have 300 Facebook friends, but how many real-life friends that we let know the real us? Relationships built on dishonesty fizzle over time. That’s why it’s always important to be honest.
This means being honest about who you are, what you stand for, what you require in a friendship. The more honest you are with others, the more they feel they can be honest with you. This provides you with valuable feedback about yourself, your behavior and choices. A real friend tells it like it is. “Maybe you’re just feeling jealous because she got the promotion and you didn’t” … “Are you sure you want to order that? You’re trying to lose weight for the reunion.”
Watch What You Say
When you know someone well, it’s easy to point out their strengths as well as their flaws. In the moment, you know just what to say to cheer them up. But you also know how to push their buttons and tear them down.
None of us are perfect and it’s easy when we’re in a bad mood, or when our friend or partner has ticked us off a little to say something that we can’t take back. We must always find that balance between honesty and hurtfulness. When you feel yourself get angry, take a breath, and try to find something different, better, less harmful to say.
Accept the Other Person’s Humanity
While healthy relationships are important and do contribute to our health and well-being, another person can’t complete you. Forget the myths Hollywood puts out. People are human and flawed and no one can fulfill all of your needs or meet every single one of your expectations.
Everyone has a different way of expressing their feelings. Everyone shows love and kindness differently. A healthy relationship is accepting your loved ones as they are.
[NOTE: no one is suggesting you stay in a toxic relationship, be it platonic or romantic. There is a difference between someone constantly disrespecting you and making you feel worthless through verbal or physical abuse, and someone who always gets your birthday wrong.]
Put the Technology Down
When you go out to dinner with a friend or partner, are you both sitting there starring at your phones or actually engaging with one another?
Let Go of Stress so You Can Open Up More
You know the old saying, in order to receive something great you’ve got to let go of the bad stuff. So many of us are walking around the world holding on to stress. And who can blame us, really? The modern world is a stressful place.
But when we’re consumed with our stress, we are unable to focus on anything but the mounting bills or the fact we keep getting passed over for that promotion. When we let go of our stress, we can allow ourselves to focus on the other person and enjoy their company fully.