Relationships are an integral part of wellness. If you recall back to my article last week, relationships are a primary food — an aspect of our life which has the ability to either provide fulfillment or drain us (no matter how many super-greens we ate that day). So I think it is important to address relationships as an aspect of wellness, not only because it’s the ‘month of love’, and not only from a romantic standpoint. I don’t mean to dismiss the importance and impact of romantic relationships on our wellness, but I’ll talk about those another time.
A few years ago, I moved to LA. This was a completely new city to me where I knew two people and one of those was my boyfriend. So clearly, I needed to make friends. Mainly for that reason, my boyfriend and I decided to live separately our first year after college — since he is from LA and already had a community there, I found it important to find my own friends. For the first few months, maybe even for the first year, I had a very hard time doing so. Coming from large friend groups in college and in Romania, it was strange, sad, and both mentally and physically taxing, experiencing what it is like to lack connection. This brings me to my first point — connection is instrumental to wellness. It has been proven through many scientific studies that connection or lack thereof not only affects our mental health, but also our physical health: it reduces stress levels, strengthens immunity, and helps us live longer. So.. if you went out and got along with people, does that mean that you have experienced connection? Probably, but that’s not all there is to it — there are ways to strengthen relationships in your life and make them more meaningful so they are actively nourishing us in a beneficial way. Here are a few:
1. Make spending time with friends and family a priority.
When we are so busy with work and other priorities in life, knowing our close friends and family will always be there can lead to neglect. But time spent with people who make you feel good will only make you happier, more clear headed, and better equipped to deal with whatever other priorities you have in life. An example of something I do to make sure I’m spending enough time with friends is I plan weekly girls dinners.
2. Find your tribe
Finding your tribe is probably the most important contributor to wellness in relationships. This can be a tough one sometimes because it can be hard to discern who your tribe is and a lot of communities or groups are based on superficial similarities. Going to the same gym or living in the same zip code are not similarities from which true connection arises. I’m not saying you can’t find friends at the gym or in your building — actually I met one of my best friends in my building, but what I’m suggesting is that it is important to look deeper than that — find people who you share certain interests with, whether that’s wellness, fiction books, or climate change. Another great indicator of whether someone is meant to be on your tribe or not is how you feel after you hang out with them — do you feel more positive than before you spent time with them or did you leave feeling negative and drained? Think of that next time you hang out with someone and get in touch with that shift.
3. Say yes to invitations and get to know acquaintances and strangers
If you find yourself making up excuses to stay in (I used to be a pro at this!), you are most likely missing out on a lot of opportunities to connect. Obviously, responsibilities and self-care shouldn’t be neglected, but if you intuitively want to go out and are worried about a slight inconvenience, go with your gut because I promise you that a little balance goes a long way. While you’re there, set the intention of being more social with those you don’t know very well — ask people about themselves, and be okay with a little awkwardness sometimes, don’t second guess yourself, it often turns out to be worth it.
4. When you randomly think of someone, tell them!
Ever think of a friend super randomly, just because you saw / heard / read something that reminded you of them? Let them know you’re thinking of them and just say hi. More importantly, if you ever randomly think back to a time during which someone offered you a helping hand or gave you good advice that was significant to you, text them to tell them that you are grateful for that — revisit the memory and let them know how much it meant to you, regardless of how long ago it happened or how small the gesture was. This is a work in progress for me too, but whenever I do it, I’m always so amazed at how great we both feel as a result.
If we all practice these tips, the world will be a more connected place — and now, more than ever, we need connection. After and during a time of social distancing, masking and not even being able to smile at someone, restoring what connection has been lost is of paramount importance. My therapist likes to say that if he could give everyone in the world one prescription for when social distancing and quarantining ends, it would be for everyone to go outside and give each stranger a hug. So make the effort for your own well-being and for others’, to find people who inspire you, who bring you up, and be the one to do that for your friends acquaintances and strangers… and maybe one day the world will be a better place. Inches to meters to miles.