How the Quality of Relationships Impacts Health

General Wellness

The Holiday season is here, and for many of us, this means getting together with family and friends and participating in more community-based activities.

These types of connections have the ability to affect our health just as much as eating well, getting adequate sleep, and regular exercise.

Studies have shown that people who have healthy and satisfying relationships are happier, live longer, and have fewer health problems.

On the other hand, a lack of healthy relationships is associated with depression, more rapid cognitive decline later in life, and increased mortality – one study, which examined data from more than 300,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, a greater impact than obesity and physical inactivity (1).

It is said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. I would take that one step further to say we are the sum total of the quality of people we spend time with.

Each time you interact with someone there is a spoken and an unspoken exchange, an exchange of energy – this energy we receive from others can either nourish us or deplete us.

If we engage in healthy, nourishing, and supportive relationships, it has a positive effect on our stress levels, immune function, insulin regulation, and gut health (2).

With that in mind, this holiday season I urge you to take stock of the relationships you have and the people you choose to spend your time with. Make a list of the 5 people in your life that provide you with unconditional love, people who support you and bring joy into your life. Once you’ve made your list, reach out to the people listed, thank them for being a part of your life, and set the intention to spend time with them, if you aren’t already.

Similarly, create a list of the people in your life who drain your energy, people who criticize and judge you, are not supportive of your growth and healing; people who generally take more than they give and leave you feeling depleted. Examine this list and determine the next best step for yourself. It may be that you need to spend less time with the people on this list, or set clear boundaries with them when you do.

This holiday set the intention to have more positive people in your life – not only is it a great way to support your overall health and well-being, you’ll also enjoy the holidays much more!


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