Wellness Wednesday: Building Better Relationships
The poet John Donne wrote, "No man is an island." Humans are social animals—we’re not wired to thrive in isolation. The relationships we build throughout our lives are vital to our overall wellness. Not only does forging strong friendships and amiable relationships with coworkers and community members improve our mental health, it has a very real impact on our physical health.
Positive interactions with our peers produce chemicals in our brains that lower stress levels and help us feel happier. These chemicals include dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. Creating bonds of trust and common interests with others fill us with a sense of happiness and pleasure. Even simply being recognized by our peers for our accomplishments can give us an intoxicating chemical boost!
While the neurochemistry of social interactions is a science, actually making those connections happen is more of an art.
Compassion is the glue that holds meaningful relationships together. Being able to listen and relate to others breaks down social and cultural barriers, and is the first step toward establishing trust with others. The next time you have a conversation with someone, practice active listening. Try to notice if you are truly listening to what they are saying, or if you’re simply waiting for your turn to speak. When we actively listen to one another, we’re able to hear perspective is, rather than what we assume it may be. Understanding where someone is coming from and what motivates and concerns them is a necessary step toward creating a relationship with a firm foundation.
Empathy is another essential tool in the relationship building kit. Empathy helps us to listen without judgment and connect with perspectives that may seem foreign or unpleasant to us. You can learn more about cultivating empathy in this Forbes article.
Diversity is an integral part of building resilience as a community and society as a whole. When we're able to build trusting relationships with people who have different experiences, we in turn grow in our capacity to bounce back from life's challenges. Diversity helps grow us as individuals and as a culture.
While it may seem counterintuitive, the truth is that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of your community. When we regularly practice self-care, we tend to react to others with more patience, possess greater understanding, and feel less weighed down by other people’s baggage. Read more about how self-care can help you form stronger relationships here.