When you approach your spring-cleaning list, the usual items are there. Donate clothes you no longer wear or fit into, wipe the windows, organize the basement and your bathroom shelves, etc. You know this takes time, but you roll up your sleeves, put on some music and get to it. You know how good this makes you feel. Everything will be in its place and smell fresh! And you will go about your days without the frustration or heavy feeling of stagnancy and disorganization.
While you put much effort into spring-cleaning, it is important to take time to examine whether some of your relationships could use some tidying up as well. Spending time with others can be great for your health but it can also affect you negatively if the relationships are toxic.
Your friendships are important to your health. Your physical, mental and overall life satisfaction are affected by your ability, or your inability, to experience successful interpersonal relationships. Your bonds with friends are supported by reinforcement of mutual interests, agreeability, physical attraction and reciprocal openness.
Behavior, attitudes and beliefs can be affected by those you spend your time with. If you hang out with happy people, you are most likely going to feel happier, however this rule applies in the same way if you hang out with people who are often angry or sad.
Consider, for example, how your relationships have positive or negative influences on your eating behaviors, physical activity and weight. If you are spending time with friends who do not enjoy working out, eating healthy or who engage in risky behaviors, your chances of doing similar, escalates. You may have noticed some of your personal goals to eat clean and lose weight, diminish when you are with those ‘friends’. It is imperative to examine whether healthy lifestyle choices are being supported by your social network.
Family and Spouse/Partner Relationships
It is your core relationships with your spouse/partner or family that studies suggest have the biggest impact to your health. Not only do you need to feel reliable support from these ties, but you also need to feel a sense of ease. In a nationally representative study of 4,642 people ranging in ages of 25-75 in the U.S., it was found that participants more commonly felt strain rather than lack of support in their relationships. But these two elements; lack of support and strain are the basis for putting your health at risk for depression, illness and poor physical and emotional wellness.
How you and your spouse/partner cope or process internal and external demands in life, respond to stress and other psychological factors are a big aspect of determining the health of your relationship as you both grow older. Respecting and sharing each other’s approaches to self-care and coping strategies will likely strengthen your relationship with your spouse/partner. By encouraging healthy lifestyle choices together, you build a shared resilience and boost your success as a couple.
This also factors in the framework of supporting each other’s beliefs, attitude and behaviors. Studies suggest that if you are in a dysfunctional relationship, it could negatively affect your eating, exercise, spiritual and behavioral choices. This is as mentioned above, where you may feel less inclined to stick to your goal to eat clean by spending time with a friend who couldn’t care less.
Yet, because this relationship has a bigger impact on your psyche, the effects of any negativity are stronger too. You may feel that because of your relationship, you have given up on things that enhanced your health and are important to your life. You need to respect and be respected by your partner for the relationship to work.
Loneliness and Self-Isolation
Adults who are socially connected are often healthier and live longer lives than those who isolate themselves. Your brain, when in social isolation, has evolved to turn on its self-preservation mode. This chronically triggers a hyper-vigilance for social threats, rises in stress hormone cortisol levels and likelihood of impulsive poor health behaviors. Loneliness has also been found to be a risk factor for depression, cognitive decline, progression of Alzheimer’s disease, elevated blood pressure, poor sleep, morbidity and mortality.
And while you may be constantly surrounded by your social network, there is still a possibility of feeling lonely. You may be in a partnership/marriage, help run a business, are head of your book club or golf league, so how can this be?
This can be confusing when you feel you are doing everything you can to be a more social person. No matter your status, membership or frequency of contact with your relationships, if they are poor in quality, loneliness accompanies. You need to feel that you have people who will be there for you in times of need, without a sense of indebtedness for their support.
If you find that after sorting through the constructs of your relationships there are some areas that are collecting dust and lacking quality, it may be a good time to consider some reorganization.
Addressing relationship dysfunctions can benefit your overall health and wellness. Seeking a therapeutic intervention for personal, couple or peer support is often something I suggest within functional healing and integrative energy healing.
For more information on Functional Medicine visit my website at KiranGrewalMD.com
To Your Health,