How relationships and community impact our health
With Valentine's Day around the corner, I thought I'd touch on a topic that is very important to our health- relationships! While Valentine's Day is often commercialized and fixated on romantic love, I like to use it as a time to reflect on all the relationships in my life (including the most important one- my relationship with myself) and consider ways to cultivate all types of love in my life. There are 7 different types of love, according to Greek Mythology and a well-balanced life has many different forms of love.
Wellness is something that many of us strive for, but we often overlook the importance of strong relationships in achieving true wellbeing. Simply put, relationships and community are one of the most important components of our well-being; without meaningful relationships with others and ourselves, we cannot fully enjoy our lives.
At a basic level, research has shown that humans are tribal beings and that we need to feel connected to others in order to be healthy. Our brains have evolved over time to crave social interaction and reward us when we engage in it by releasing oxytocin — sometimes known as the “love hormone”. This feel-good hormone helps us form bonds with other people and plays a key role in regulating emotions such as happiness and trust.
The effects of loneliness on our physical health have been extensively studied, with one recent study finding that loneliness causes inflammation throughout the body while another found that loneliness can actually increase mortality rates. This underscores the importance of maintaining a strong network of supportive friends and family members who can help buffer us from stressors or provide comfort and reassurance when times get tough.
Relationships can also act as mirrors for us — reflecting aspects about ourselves back at us which can help us become more aware of who we are and what makes us tick. Taking time out for self-reflection is essential for personal growth as it allows us to challenge ourselves and push beyond our comfort zones so we continually strive to be better versions of ourselves.
Finally, investing in strong relationships also means taking care of yourself first so you’re able to give your best self to others when needed. It’s important to recognize your own needs so you can set boundaries around what works for you while still staying engaged with your loved ones. Healthy eating habits, regular exercise, adequate sleep, mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation, exploring hobbies and interests you enjoy—all these factors will help contribute towards strengthening your overall wellbeing which should always remain a priority no matter how busy life gets!
In summary, developing healthy relationships — both with yourself and those around you — is essential if you want to achieve long lasting wellness. Making sure you nurture your connections will not only benefit how you feel mentally but also physically, too!
With the above in mind, I'd love to share some tips on how to cultivate stronger relationships and build your "tribe"...
1. Express genuine interest in others
The best way to get great friends is to be a great friend! You know the old saying, treat others as you want to be treated. When you developer a genuine interest in others, you become a magnet for people and life becomes more fun. Ask people questions about themselves, get curious, and make it fun! Try to write down your friends' birthdays, anniversaries and other special events and make a point to reach out to them on those days. A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.
2. Be intentional with whom you spend your time
Many people stay in romantic relationships that are not right for them simply because they don't want to be alone, and similarly, many people stay in friend groups they have outgrown because they want to feel like they have a lot of friends. Although having your "tribe" is important, its' equally important that you are surrounded by people with similar values who truly want the best for you and bring OUT the best in you. Don't settle. Be intentional about spending time with people who ENERGIZE you, not drain you.
3. Go to events that genuinely interest you and get out of your comfort zone
If you want to meet more people who share interests and values with you, try going to new events, workshops, etc to meet more people like that! For example, if you love to workout, make it habit to try new gyms and fitness studios. If you love wellness, why not join a wellness group or attend a nutrition workshop? (hint hint: like my HTX Gals Group or one of my meal prep workshops!!)
4. Ask for feedback
This might feel weird, but it's one of my favorite ways to strengthen the relationships in my life. Simply ask some of the closest people in your life the following questions:
How do I add value to your life?
What do you love about me?
What could I do to be a better partner/friend/family member/etc?
How can I support you right now?
You may need to give them some time to think about these questions, but trust me- you'll learn a lot about what you're doing well (so you can do more of it!) and how you can improve. And remember, we can ALL improve!
5. It starts with you
As I stated above, relationships are our best mirrors- they reflect back to us what we need to work on within ourselves. If you're noticing patterns in behaviors or attributes in your friendships, take some time to reflect on what those relationships are reflecting back to you. The most important relationship you'll ever be in is with yourself, so always make that your biggest priority! Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for all of your other relationships in your life.