A strong and healthy relationship with those we love is one of the best gifts we can receive—and give. Strong relationships and emotional connections are foundational to a happy and healthy life. Not only do strong and healthy relationships lead to feelings of fulfillment and completeness in life, they can also lead to physical benefits for the body and mind alike. Yet, social isolation and toxic relationship patterns are increasingly common in a world filled with remote work and living and hostile social media environments. But don’t worry—read on to learn proven strategies to improve your communication, build strong relationships, and establish rewarding emotional connections no matter where you live or work.
Emotional Connection and Wellness
Humans, by nature, are social creatures. The need for healthy and caring social relationships is the very core of the human experience, so much so that building healthy and strong relationships even has benefits for mental and physical health. Fostering strong relationships and emotional connections with those around us has the ability to:
- improve mood and self-esteem
- reduce stress
- improve physical health and increase lifespan
Improve Mood and Self-Esteem
It’s no secret that spending time and building emotional connections with loved ones makes people feel happier more often. Investing in strengthening relationships can boost your mood and increase the feeling of contentment and happiness. Not only that, studies have shown that healthy emotional connections and relationships with others can boost your self-esteem to notable degrees. This, in turn, improves your relationships, and a cyclical positive relationship is formed.
Caring and healthy relationships have been shown to reduce stress, and in turn, reduce the harmful effects of stress-related health issues. Caring behaviors and emotional connection with those around you have been shown to trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones. These hormones and lowered stress levels affect nearly every part of your body, including your gut health, immune system, and even insulin regulation.
Improve Physical Health and Increase Your Lifespan
Reduced stress caused by hormone release is not the only positive physiological response to healthy relationships and emotional connections. Those with supportive friendships and relationships have been shown to have reduced risks of depression, high blood pressure, an unhealthy BMI, and, ultimately, longer lifespans. Some studies even suggest that the connection between relationships and increased self-esteem carries over into the physical health of the body and increased life expectancy.
Improving Communication and Relationships
Communication is the ultimate conduit to a healthy and thriving relationship. Open, honest, and respectful communication is what the strongest emotional connections and long-lasting relationships are built on. But often, communicating in a truly healthy way is not as easy as it sounds. Most people have been raised experiencing far more poor examples of communication than healthy examples to pattern their behavior by. The great thing is, the more that you learn how to communicate effectively, the more the people around you will learn from your example and return the behavior. Before you know it, your relationships and the patterns of communication will develop, and you will build lasting bonds and emotional connections that are life-changing. Try a few of these communication strategies and watch how your relationships will slowly begin to strengthen.
Communication In Relationships: 7 Keys To Effective Communication – Stephan Speaks
Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a critical skill for healthy communication and emotional connections. Active listening means being deliberate and focused in your conversation with another person. When you are listening actively, you are not distracted by your phone or thinking about other things while the other person is talking. Instead, you are actively engaged in what they are saying at the moment. Instead of thinking more about how you are going to reply to their words, try being present and fully taking in what they are saying without being distracted by your own thoughts or desire to speak. There are a lot of ways to practice active listening, and brushing up on this skill can go a long way in improving your relationships.
Use “I” Statements
When having a conversation—and even more importantly, when you are having a disagreement—try to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements when expressing your feelings. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try reframing it as an “I” statement and say, “I feel unheard and unimportant when you use your phone while I’m speaking.” Using “I” statements shifts the tone from accusatory to personal and reflective. “You” statements are more likely to make the other person defensive in their response which begins making healthy conversation more difficult. “I” statements also force you to take the time to assess the core of where your feelings are really coming from and how to express them to the other person best.
Sometimes being honest in the small, everyday things can be more difficult than being honest in the big moments where we know it counts. But being honest is extremely important in fostering healthy relationships and true emotional connections. While it may be tempting to tell “white lies” in an attempt to spare someone’s feelings or to fib when you know the truth of your actions will aggravate your partner, small lies are like drops of poison in the well of your relationship. Over time, lies and dishonesty will erode the trust that you are working so hard to build with your loved ones, and they can leave you feeling isolated and misunderstood. Try being honest in as many things as possible, especially in your communication with others. Be honest about your feelings, needs, and expectations. The more honest you are, the more understood and connected you will feel.
Make Time to Connect Meaningfully
Making time to connect meaningfully may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easily put on the back burner when you are feeling busy or overwhelmed. Intentionally taking the time to communicate and foster your relationships is one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health. So, next time you feel like rescheduling that lunch date with a friend (again), try reconsidering and making your relationships a priority in your schedule. Setting aside time to foster your emotional connections doesn’t have to be burdensome or a huge time commitment. It could be something as simple as calling an old friend for a chat or taking your sibling out for coffee. While it’s easy to shoot a text, nothing beats being able to give (and receive) a hug or even look the person in the eye while talking. These face-to-face interactions are critical to your mental and emotional wellness.
Strong relationships and emotional connection is a critical factor in both your physical and emotional health. While it’s easy to let other demands of life take priority, don’t forget that building and fostering healthy relationships is one of the best things you can do, not only for yourself but for those you love. So, take the opportunity now to use these communication tips to build a stronger relationship with the ones closest to you. And who knows? You may find yourself living a longer and happier life.