Humans are social creatures. We rely on relationships for our well-being. Relationships can broadly be regarded as external (those with others) and internal (which covers your view of yourself, your values and spirituality). Both are important to your health. If your relationships are out of balance then your health will be affected.
Arguably the most important relationship you have is the internal one you have with yourself. How you see yourself governs your mood, attitude, behavior and beliefs. These beliefs and attitudes lie at your core. At another level are your thoughts and emotions.
Our external relationships are first and foremost with other people. This includes our family, our friends as well as those we work with. There are many relationships that we have in our lives. Two fairly recent studies highlight the correlation between good relationships and good health.
The first looked at life expectancy in older people. Those who have a good network of friends lived longer than those who did not. Other studies have looked at the role of friendship in cancer and heart disease and again found “good” relationships made a difference.
Whilst nobody has done a “reverse “study looking at the health impacts of bad or “toxic” relationships, I have had many people particularly with cancer tell me over the years how they felt toxic relationships had contributed to their illness.
The second looked at how marriage continues to “hold up” in this changing world. It has long been shown that the health of men in particular is improved in a good relationship (marriage or partnership). I have also seen recent reports about the adverse health affects of divorce.
Now the key in all of this is good relationships. Staying in a bad relationship for the sake of it is not the way to go. Equally life is not necessarily perfect so one always needs to be “working” at ones relationships. Perhaps tending them (like one might tend a garden) is a better analogy. After all if it feels like hard work then that may tell you something.
We also have relationships with our environment -our home and workplace, and the broader environment. We all know that some places “feel ” right and other do not. Sometimes even the colors in a room affect how we feel. The in-depth study of this is of course Feng Shui.
There is also our relationship with the cosmos, universe, spirit world, or whatever term sits comfortably with you.
The first relationship to get “right” is the one with yourself. This is about acceptance of who you are in this current moment. You can strive to be better but not make your self-acceptance conditional on some future achievement. It is about forgiving yourself, and it is about being “present” in the moment.
All other relationships that you have will in some way be a reflection of this central one. Relationships are pillar 7 of Do-It-Yourself Health.
Author: Joe Kosterich