The importance of healthy relationships

"When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves."

William Arthur Ward

Having good relationships with people protects our mental health and wellbeing, ensuring greater happiness, physical health and longevity. Not having good relationships can be tough: loneliness has been shown to be as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

So, how can we create and maintain good relationships - with ourselves and those around us?

The Mental Health Foundation has created an excellent publication to guide us through the jungle that can be interpersonal relationships.

Five tips for maintaining healthy relationships:

  • Give time: put more time aside to connect with friends and family
  • Be present: stop checking your phone and emails when you are with family and friends. Try to be present in the moment and be there for your loved ones and switch out of work mode wherever possible
  • Actively listen to what others are saying in a non-judgemental way and concentrate on their needs in that moment - how often do we multi-task when to take time to really stop and listen can make a huge difference to someone
  • Be listened to: share how you are feeling, honestly and allow yourself to be listened and supported - you may need to ask for this if you have not been assertive about your needs previously
  • Recognise any unhealthy relationships: being around positive people can make us happier but being in harmful relationships can really impact our wellbeing. Recognising this can help us move forward and find solutions to issues.

Let's look a bit deeper...

The relationship you have with yourself: self-care is about looking after yourself both physically and mentally. It's crucial to your own wellbeing and also to creating healthy and happy relationships with others. Being kind to yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Take time for you.

Healthy relationships should allow both people in the relationship to feel supported and connected, but also allow each person to maintain their independence. Communication and setting boundaries are two important aspects of a healthy relationship. This may mean speaking openly about your needs and not doing everything with the other person - or, spending more time with them if you have been ignoring them lately, perhaps in favour of work.

The workplace presents many opportunities for people to develop their social networks - through work itself, leisure activities or through shared interests such as sport, charities and the arts. Approaches that increase employee health and wellbeing can also influence and positively impact relationships in the workplace. Typical workplace wellbeing programmes and approaches focus on individuals by targeting things like healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation, stress management, etc. While these programmes have shown positive and cost-effective outcomes for individuals, it is also crucial that workplace wellbeing takes a whole-workplace approach by addressing the working environment factors (social and physical) that impact health and wellbeing. Duradiamond Healthcare's experience shows that managers who are appropriately trained in areas such as mental health and stress awareness are more likely to have better relationships with their employees and have more engaged employees as a result. Speak to us today.

Communities: what can you do to help strengthen community connections in your neighbourhood? What about helping a neighbour or volunteering?

Online: the internet has enabled us to make friends with people we don’t know and may never meet in real life. These relationships may not always be adding value to our lives and, instead, may be sources of anxiety. It’s important to regularly assess your contacts on social networks to see if they need to be adjusted.

Dealing with isolation: the role of being a parent/guardian/carer comes with many challenges. This is more so nowadays, when parents may have double caring responsibilities for children and their own parents. It can be difficult to find time together as a couple or to do things for ourselves. Ask for help from friends and seek community support networks - your GP may be able to advise or look online.

Difficulties in building relationships: not everyone finds it easy to stay socially connected or to make new friends. This might be due to being unable to leave the house, living a long way from others or because one feels shy in crowds. Some people are more vulnerable, e.g. if they move to a new area, have recently been bereaved, feel socially anxious, or live with a mental health problem that affects their ability to make and/or sustain relationships.

On the whole, relationships are good for us and, for most of us, are a central tenet to living a good life, but it's not true of all relationships. Sometimes relationships in our lives can be harmful. It's important to  identify these and weed them out.

Guide to investing in your relationships

Read the report