Dealing with a mental health issue can feel unbearable and overwhelming at times. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate that pain.
According to a study featured by Psychology Today, one of the keys lies in cultivating positive relationships in your life. Hence, let’s explore the benefits of positive and supportive relationships in mental health as well as the consequences of holding on to toxic relationships.
Defining a Positive Relationship
Before anything else, we would want to define what a “positive relationship” is. After all, its meaning can vary from person to person.
For the purposes of this article, though, a positive relationship is a loving and supportive connection formed between two people. It is usual for any relationship to stumble upon rough patches along the way, but a positive one will always overcome them with patience and understanding.
How Do You Know if You’re in a Positive Relationship?
Here’s a quick test recommended by Robert Greene, author of five New York Times bestsellers, including The 48 Laws of Power and The Laws of Human Nature. He originally intended it to catch “enviers” or people with deep-seated envy.
Coincidentally, it can test the quality of the bond you share with another person. It’s fast and easy. All you need to do is share something that has happened to you recently and pay attention to how that person will react the second you tell them.
Apparently, a toxic person will have a flash of pain or disappointment in their eyes the moment you tell him or her some good news about yourself. On the other hand, you will be able to spot a glint of joy after sharing some bad news.
You need to pay attention since these signs will only show for about half a second. Most of us have been programmed to mask our true feelings, after all. He talked more about this test in a podcast episode with Jordan Harbinger.
In the end, though, remember that people in healthy relationships will listen to each other without spite or judgment.
Quality Over Quantity
Here’s a frequently asked question: how many positive relationships do you need to improve your mental health? Honestly, the answer doesn’t really depend on the quantity. Instead, what’s important is the quality of the bonds you share with other people.
A supportive and encouraging relationship shared with just one person can already significantly improve one’s mental health. Meanwhile, a toxic relationship shared with another person is apparently more detrimental to one’s mental health than being alone, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
It is also possible to have a relationship with a lot of people but still feel empty inside. This is a good sign that these connections are empty and meaningless.
We’re not saying that they don’t have the potential of eventually growing into fulfilling relationships. In fact, it is entirely possible, though quite challenging, to foster a relationship with a community. This is especially true for people engaged in social work and other forms of public service.
Positive and Supportive Relationships in Mental Health
The benefits of positive and supportive relationships in mental health can be seen across every stage of a person’s life.
As a Child
Childhood is the time when you first learn how to engage and connect with other people. According to the Mental Health Foundation, we do this by mimicking the behavior and emotions of the people around us.
Bonds formed with other people at this time are crucial since they can impact how you view relationships and build meaningful social connections as adults. During this time, the quality of your bonds can also affect your mental health and well-being later on in life. It is for these reasons that childhood experiences such as isolation and bullying can have lasting consequences.
Fortunately, this also means that the quality relationships formed early in life can empower your lives even after you’ve reached adulthood. Positive support from organizations and other adult figures, like teachers and coaches, can also help kids adjust to various relationship changes.
As an Adult
One of the main benefits of adulthood is the added control and influence you have over your relationships. It’s not something you had as kids.
For instance, most children don’t really have a say regarding the changes in family structure. This is why divorce and other forms of family breakdown are so detrimental for kids.
However, this doesn’t mean that you are not at risk of being lonely or isolated. Poor work-life balance and loss are just some factors that can put your relationships under undue strain.
Toxic and unstable relationships can then affect other aspects of your lives, including your physical and emotional well-being. It can even lead to the development of other mental health issues.
Having positive and supportive relationships can help decrease this risk. In fact, according to an article published in Harvard Health, multiple studies have already proven that people with supportive relationships are not only happier but live longer too.
As an Elderly
While it’s true that most of us have more time to socialize after retirement, this doesn’t mean that the elderly are not at risk of depression and isolation. This is especially true for those who have health conditions that make it difficult for them to leave the house.
Poor life decisions and the lack of meaningful bonds made during adulthood can also cause a lot of stress and loneliness in later life.
Positive relationships, especially with younger people, can help. It can also decrease the pain caused by severing relationships due to loss, such as the death of a spouse or a close friend.
To Sum Up
It can be easy to overlook the value of social relationships, especially amidst the hectic lives you lead. However, they do play a role in your well-being. Studies show that the quality of bonds you share with other people can impact your physical and mental health regardless of age.
Positive and supportive relationships don’t just make you happy, but they can also promote holistic health and longevity.