We’re wired to connect to others from the time we’re babies. Sometimes, when we’re facing challenges we can withdraw from other people. But building our connections with people, instead of withdrawing, can change our thoughts and feelings for the better
Sophia, , says “when I was having my tough time, I think I definitely noticed that I put a lot of my relationships on the back burner… But when I [worked on them] it created a brighter future. There were things that I could look forward to, things that I was confident in. I knew that people really liked me.”
Whether they’re friends, family members, partners, mentors, colleagues or people you’re just getting to know, working on your relationships can be great for your mental health.
Connecting more deeply to just one person can also help you get closer to other people in your life. Let’s take a look at how building relationships can help and what you can do to nurture them.
Remember how other people can help
When you’re going through a hard time, good relationships can:
Offer you support
If you’ve been struggling, it’s great to talk to friends and family about what you’re feeling. People care about you and are there to give you advice, listen and offer practical support. But you don’t have to tell everyone everything. For example, if you’re going through some mental health challenges, it’s okay to tell some friends and not others.
Take your mind off things
Going through a rough patch? Sometimes we can fall into unhelpful habits or get a bit stuck inside our heads. Doing things you enjoy with mates is a great way to take your mind off worries and help you to feel more like yourself.
Help you feel less alone
When we talk to other people about things we’re going through, it’s often surprising how much they can relate to us. Everyone’s unique, but it can be really reassuring to know that other people have had similar experiences.
Work to make your relationships healthier
A healthy relationship is one where both people are connected and respected. Often, healthy relationships have had lots of challenges – like arguments – and have grown from them. Here are some signs that your relationship with someone is going well:
- you feel connected
- you’ve shared experiences
- you feel like you know the person and that they know you
- you can talk to them when things aren’t going as well as you’d like
- you can hang out and do stuff you enjoy with them.
Unhealthy relationships can be tricky to spot, but over time it can get easier. Sometimes an outside perspective can help. If a friendship or romance makes you feel worse about yourself or unsafe, it’s a good idea to talk about it to someone who you trust.
Reflect on your connections
It’s helpful to reflect on the stuff that’s working in your relationships and the things that could be improved. When one part of a relationship is hard – arguments, for example – it’s easy to forget about the good things. On the other hand, we can sometimes be so keen to make a relationship to work that we ignore the ways it makes us unhappy.
It’s easier to look at all this with a little bit of distance. Think about the strengths and weaknesses you see in the relationships between people you know. Then try to look at your own relationships in the same kind of zoomed-out way. What works? What could work better? How are you when you’re with each other? How would you like to be?
Build your relationship with yourself
There’s one person who you’re closer to than anyone else, a human being who you spend every moment of your life with: yourself. When we practice looking after that person, our relationships with other people tend to get better. It works the other way around, too. Hanging out with and caring for our friends and family can make it easier to care for ourselves.
There are heaps of easy ways you can treat yourself with love and care – check out our tips for a healthy headspace.
Would you like to connect to an expert who can help you work through challenging stuff? Get in touch with your local headspace centre today.