In our world today, we are inclined to form virtual relationships. We spend a lot of time on social media and the internet in general, which prompts us to obsessively watch for how many likes or retweets we are getting. The more we do that, the less interested we become in forming relationships in person or making friends the old fashioned way.
Harvard University researchers surveyed and scrutinized a group of 724 men from 1939 to 2014, and arrived at a simple, yet important conclusion. Harvard professor Robert Waldinger, director of the center conducting the study, described it this way: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier, period.”
The determining factor of how happy and healthy these men were throughout their lives was the presence of good relationships. Success, where they lived, what they drove, and how smart they were didn’t matter compared to successful, deep relationships. The barometer of what constitutes a “good relationship” is simply the quality of the friends you have.
It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or whether you are in a committed relationship. The quality and closeness of your relationships are what matters. What this means is that enjoying the benefits of an intimate and supportive relationship is equal to enjoying the benefits of your relationship with a family member, friend, or colleague.
The importance of these relationships is evident in plenty of other studies. Worldwide, there is an increase in the amount of research that focuses on well-being on a national scale. Countries across the globe are beginning to look at Gross National Happiness as a measure of national health, in addition to the Gross National Product.
Some of the “happiest countries in the world” include Denmark, Norway, Columbia, Israel, and Australia. When researchers asked why these specific countries were selected, the answer they discovered was that people living in the happiest countries enjoy high levels of social support. This support can be the result of deep interpersonal connections with families, intimate friendships, or a sense of communal spirit. In these countries, the emphasis is always on relationships.
It may seem strange or unusual that this is where happiness comes from. However, cultivating these types of relationships isn’t difficult. The difference lies between virtual and real relationships. It may seem as if relationships have transitioned onto an online platform, but the important ones are the ones that are nourished with a deep personal connection.
Right now, the world is in an unsure place, since we are all under stay-at-home orders. It is difficult and not possible to go see those friends in person. However, there is still the distinction of a superficial relationship versus a deep one. It doesn’t need to be practiced in person to be a meaningful relationship. We live in a current society that has lost a lot of its old structures and modalities. We need to establish some new structures and new modalities.
That looks like setting time out of our day every day to check on a friend. See how a family member is doing. Reach out to someone we wouldn’t normally reach out to. Get honest and vulnerable with people because right now, that is something that can benefit the world.
How to Build Healthy Relationships
Relationships need nourishment and care to flourish. Although relationships can look many different ways, there are certain traits that have been linked to being healthy or desirable. For example, each party should feel confident that their partner is willing to devote time and attention to the other. They both should be committed to accommodating the differences and challenges that come up from time to time.
Another trait is good relationships are generally marked by a sense of fairness, emotional as well as the physical like in helping around the house. This helps romantic partners feel like they are on a team together rather than enemies. This also allows for partners to tear walls down and be more vulnerable with one another. In these good relationships, partners try to afford their partner the benefit of the doubt, which creates a sense of being on the same team. This feeling helps couples overcome hardships later on.
The same can be said for friendships. A friendship is a type of relationship that can sometimes even last longer than romantic relationships. Because of this these should be cherished. If one person in the friendship feels as if they are in an unfair friendship then trouble can arise.
This is why it is important, to be honest, and vulnerable with how you feel and where you are at with people. This allows growth and the opportunity to change. It’s important to take criticism in a good manner rather than get defensive and attack the person.
Family, of course, encompasses some of the most important relationships you will experience throughout your life. You don’t necessarily pick your family and they will typically be there for you in the end. Nourishing those relationships is extra important during this time, especially anyone in your family who is older — it can be scary for older people to be living through this time. Try to see how you can help them, even if it’s explaining how certain internet applications work. Doing kind things for people creates a bubble of gratitude that anyone would appreciate.
If you have found that your relationships with others have suffered due to your behavior and/or substance use disorder, Avalon Malibu can help. At Avalon Malibu, it is understood that it is a family disease. Therapy is available to help get you through any conflict you may be struggling with. If you or a loved one need help, call Avalon Malibu today at (844)-857-5992.