Relationships and Happiness

I’m interested to discover that relationships are the single biggest predictor of happiness. There are research studies showing much improved recovery time for heart attacks and cancer when the patient has strong social support. In Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, he shows that the most successful people hold tighter to their social support instead of turning inward in times of adversity.

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And yet, the instinct of an introvert is to withdraw in difficult times. I know that when I became sicker and sicker last year, I withdrew tremendously. Social functions were very difficult since I was so low on energy and all I wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t reach out to friends to talk about how much I was struggling and I was too weak to fight for what I needed from those closest to me.

I have always felt that my social support was inadequate. My parents are not supportive and at times can be detrimental to my well-being. When my parents split up my coping strategy was to throw myself into my school work. It was something I had control over. The emotions were probably too overwhelming to cope with at the sensitive age of thirteen.

I think I developed the idea that I can be strong enough not to let emotions and the environment get the better of me. The strategy worked and I did well at school. I have been wondering how much better I would have done if I had supportive parents though. I’m confident that our bright little girls will grow up in a home filled with love and support, and without the distractions I had as a child.

From such a focus on being strong, I became very capable and competent at the things I put my mind to. I tend to cope well in crisis and I am level headed. I probably taught my friends that I was just fine without support and I didn’t really go looking for it. I wasn’t comfortable being vulnerable because it was too painful.

This is not a good strategy for building healthy relationships. We need to open up, share and be vulnerable in order for people to feel close to us. I haven’t done this well in my life as it is really hard for me to let people close, for fear of being hurt I suppose.

Since becoming ill I have been forced to re-evaluate my relationships. As I mentioned in a previous post, I set some firm boundaries and I ended some relationships that were not healthy. My life is better for it now. My relationships are such that the people who build me are closer to me, and the people who hurt me are further away from me.

Have you evaluated your relationships lately? Are there people close to you who bring you down and deplete you? Are you neglecting someone who builds you up? The best relationships are those that are mutually-beneficial, give and take and that leave you feeling energised and loved.

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Kathy
I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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