Why Healthy Relationships Are So Important
As humans, the relationships we form with other people are vital to our mental and emotional wellbeing, and really, our survival.
Humans have an inherent desire to be close to other people. To connect and build relationships. While a man stranded on an island, talking to a volleyball (you remember the movie!) isn’t necessarily “healthy,” his compulsion for company is. That’s because the fact of the matter is, healthy relationships (romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships -- they all count!) can help make for a healthier overall life. But what exactly does a healthy relationship look like?
A positive relationship can be shared between any two people who love, support, encourage and help each other practically as well as emotionally. In no particular order, people in healthy relationships tend to:
- Listen to each other
- Communicate openly and without judgment
- Trust and respect each other
- Consistently make time for each other
- Remember details about each other’s lives
- Engage in healthy activities together
And while you don’t have to be romantically involved to enjoy the benefits of a healthy relationship, there are various studies on the positive effects a healthy romantic relationship can have on your health. Here are a couple benefits of healthy relationships. Some are specific to romantic relationships, and others aren’t.
Being in a committed relationship is linked to less production of cortisol, a stress hormone. This suggests that married or paired people are less responsive to psychological stress, and that the social and emotional support that comes with having a partner can be a great buffer against stress. There’s even evidence to suggest that couples who cohabitate are happier than those that don’t.
Whether it’s having someone there to remind you to take your medicine, or having a partner to help take your mind off the pain, research suggests married people who have undergone heart surgery are three times more likely to survive the first three months after surgery than single patients. Married patients also reported feeling more confident about their ability to handle post-surgery pain and were less worried about the surgery in general. A little emotional support can go a long way toward helping a person recover from a procedure or illness.
Healthy relationships set the perfect tone for an overall healthy lifestyle. If your spouse, friends or other loved ones encourage eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, etc., you’re likely to follow in their footsteps. It’s a lot easier to take on healthy behaviors when you surround yourself with people who are doing the same.
Greater Sense of Purpose
It’s natural for humans to want to feel needed, and like they’re part of something bigger. Many people strive to feel like they’re doing something good for someone else, and improving the world in some way. Being in a loving relationship, no matter what kind, can give a person a sense of well-being and purpose. In fact, it’s possible that having a sense of purpose can actually add years to your life.
Speaking of adding years onto your life, research suggests that having healthy social relationships makes a bigger impact on avoiding early death than taking blood pressure medication or being exposed to air pollution. One study even suggests that a lack of social relationships has the same effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Everyone is unique and has their own needs and desires when it comes to relationships, handling stress and living a healthy, meaningful life. If you’re the type of person who enjoys being alone, that’s okay too, but attempting to make a couple close relationships could mean noticeable benefits to your mental and physical health.
Sometimes having at least one good friend (or trusted co-worker, therapist or counselor) to help walk you through issues like social anxiety or depression can end up being more than worth it. It might be difficult, but it also might be exactly what you need. Even just having one or two strong, healthy relationships in your life can have a positive effect on health.