The Secret to Life
A recent 75 year old study discovered the secret to life is based on much more than tangible items. Harvard's Grant and Glueck study followed and analyzed two populations: 456 poor growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 and 268 male graduates from Harvard's classes of 1939 to 1944. From self-reported surveys to physical interactions, researchers discovered good relationships keep us happier and healthier. The study and data honed in on feelings of reliance, suggesting trust in others relaxes the nervous system, helps the brain stay healthier for longer, and reduces both physical and emotion pain. Without someone to rely on, researchers noticed a clear picture that people who feel lonely decline in physical health earlier and die younger.
But the data truly is not so surprising, because as humans, feeling connected to others is one of the basic human needs. According to The Telomere Effect, people who feel connected to others tend to have better health, whereas people feeling socially isolated feel greater magnitudes of stress and depression and are even more likely to die earlier. In fact, individuals with strong and interpersonal connections or individuals who are happily married have longer telomeres and may live longer compared to people with compromised and mixed relationships. Telomeres are the protective endings on chromosomal DNA, having a large impact on the overall health and longevity.
Additionally, good relationships focus more on quality rather than quantity. Sure, we can have large friend circles and countless friendly faces at a community gym, but the depth of vulnerability, honesty, and security is vital for the rawest forms of relationships.
How to Strengthen Relationships
Focus On You
Although it may seem contradictory to focus on you in a bidirectional relationship, it is imperative for strengthening connections. For better or for worse, the way you handle life situations can influence relationship quality. Focus on coping techniques or talk to a guidance counselor as necessary, as without putting into place effective coping skills you heighten the risk of taking out aggression on your spouse, family member, or close friend.
Juggling all the responsibilities and tasks of life can be difficult, though relationships should be at the top of your task list. If feeling bogged for time, review your calendar to pinpoint what is sucking up so much of it. Are you overbooking yourself with work events? Or maybe filling in time with too many hobbies? Whatever it is, truly ask yourself if it is more important than spending time with the ones you love.
Do Something Thoughtful
No, emptying out your wallet is not required... Random acts of kindness and selflessness can move mountains. Whether waking up early to brew the coffee and pack lunches or getting tickets to a movie your spouse has been dying to see, do something thoughtful every now and then to show your loved one just how much you care.
Talk It Out
Perhaps one of the biggest deterrents of a healthy relationship is allowing frustrations to bottle up and eventually explode into a nasty fight. The importance of honest communication cannot be stressed enough, as such conflicts can be completely avoided by talking through it.