What is the single most important influence on living a long, happy and healthy life?
A group of millennials ((21 – 40 years of age) were asked this. The answers were
· Get rich
· High achievement
· Become famous
What would your answer be?
Would you agree with the millennials or would you say -
· Eating healthy nutritious food
· Keeping slim
· Being fit and healthy
· Being loving to ourselves and others
· Good quality sleep
· Practising Meditation
According to a 75-year-old survey, the longest research survey ever conducted by Harvard Medical University, the single most important influence to live a long, happy and healthy life is our relationships. Robert Waldinger, PhD explains this in his TED talk, which summarizes the study's findings so far and has been watched by more than 37 million people worldwide.
The lessons learnt from the research is that loving and close relationships keep us happier, healthier and we live longer. Through the pandemic, the majority of us crave social connection – we desperately miss our family and friends. Loneliness is toxic to our bodies. The more isolated we feel, the less happy we become. Loneliness is also the cause of our brain function deteriorating and our physical health declining. One statistic stated that being lonely was as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
High conflict relationships are also bad for our health. A sad fact is that many people feel lonely even if they are in a relationship or have a family. The divorce rates are increasing around the world, One British law firm (Stewarts) logged a 122% increase in enquiries between July and October last year.
The pandemic is affecting many of our core relationships. Even couples that were not facing problems before have seen differences magnified.
So what are the most common relationship habits that threaten a relationship?
Words like “I won’t discuss it” “Get over it” “Whatever” “I’m just not interested” ”What are you like” “Blah, blah, blah” or being silent.
Contempt, Scorn, Mockery, Superiority
This can be demonstrated by body language and is deeply damaging. The person that is dishing out this type of behaviour is normally very insecure. However, this doesn’t help the person receiving the ridicule.
“I can’t believe how dumb you are to do this”
“You are such an airhead – you never turn up on time”
“You always forget your stuff – you are such a disaster”
“You are so selfish. You never listen to what I want”
“You completely ignore what makes me happy”
Making these words personal is deeply upsetting.
When a person’s objective is to make the other person feel inferior this badly affects the confidence and security of the person on the receiving end. These comments can severely wound the person or make the person become very angry.
“Superior people praise, inferior people criticise others”
Holding on to grudges
This is a terrible toll on our health and our family’s health. It is critically important that we get help to work through these issues as grudges are toxic in our bodies and cause physical and mental illness.
We can never undo the past and constantly referring to it is counterproductive. Letting go of old hurts is imperative to have emotional wellbeing and inner peace.
There is a great deal of harm caused when relationships break down, whether between partners or families. Unfortunately, so much time and effort is often spent placing blame and projecting internal anxieties on to others. Here are five ways that you can consider to build and maintain relationships.
Everyone likes to be appreciated. Look for the person’s good points. Let them know what you value about them. Even in a toxic relationship, there is always something that you can appreciate.
People feel understood when they are truly listened to, Listening empathetically changes the dynamics of any communication. Listen with an open mind and really hear what is being said. Can you notice how they are feeling by watching their body language? Withhold any judgement, advice or guidance until the person has been heard. A fun way to do this is to use a ball. One person holds the ball until they have finished saying everything they wish to say. Once finished, they pass the ball to the other one. The only person that can speak is the one holding the ball!
Explain your views
Discuss your view and beliefs in an explanatory rather than a directive way. It is important that you speak openly and show your true feelings but in a calm and open way. We do have the right to criticise behaviour that affects us but making it personal is unhelpful and damaging as it doesn’t resolve anything. Avoid words like 'you are' 'always' and 'never'.
Demonstrate that you are willing to listen and understand other views. Be willing to change your beliefs in light of new understanding, Be willing to say sorry if you truly mean this. If you cannot agree, look for common ground and be willing to compromise.
Start being aware of the words you use and if they are helpful or not. Where do you feel the emotion in your body when a conflict situation arises. Once you give yourself time to get to know the part that is reacting, you are then in control and can choose how to react.
Set a time to talk
Choose a time when you can talk with your partner or a person you are in conflict with, without any other distractions. Ensure you are not drinking alcohol as this can cause us to be irrational.
Plan time together. Find a common activity that everyone likes.
Acts of kindness
What small act of kindness can you do for the other. Perhaps there is something you could do that you know they hate doing or find difficult to do.
What are you grateful for to have this person in your life. What would you miss if they were no longer with you?
I believe it is really important to put in the time and effort to resolve conflicts between couples and families. A useful book is Beyond Mars and Venus – Relationship skills for today’s complex world by John Gray – the author who wrote 25 years ago the famous book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
If you feel you would like some help with resolving some issues, please get in touch and book a 20-minute free call so I can explain how I can help you. Knowing that resolving our relationship issues will lead to a happy, healthy and long life is well worth the effort.
Here’s to happy relationships. Love Lynda xx