Valentine’s Day, known as the day of hearts, the day of love, the day to celebrate relationships.
It’s a day that traditionally, allows us to pause and consider our romantic relationships. However, it also provides us a reminder to check in on all our social connections and the strong link they have to our happiness (Diener & Seligman, 2002). The various different relationships in our lives matter, and they have a profound effect on our Health and Wellbeing.
In recognition of Valentines Day, this week Senior School girls were invited to write anonymous messages of care and kindness to others to highlight the importance of relationships in our lives.
How do relationships impact our mental health?
Healthy relationships are a core element to ensure good mental health, and has benefits to each of us emotionally, socially and even biologically. When we connect with others we experience a range of positive emotions such as joy, happiness, pleasure, connectedness and purpose. Relationships impact on longevity influencing our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking (Harvard Medical School, 2010).
Satisfying social connections also allow us to cope more effectively with stress and supports our immune system, helping us fight off infections more effectively (Breines, 2014). At a hormone level, experiencing close social interactions secretes oxytocin which supports your brain’s serotonin (the ‘feel good’ hormone) decreasing those feelings of anxiety, stress and depressive symptoms.
Have you checked in this week?
Across this week, it is a timely reminder for us all, to check in on those relationships we have in our lives; professional networks, online contacts, close friends, family and significant others that we may have neglected, or those that need nurturing.
Sometimes those close connections don’t get the attention they deserve. They take a backseat in our lives because we are time poor or the ‘to do list’ is too long and gets in the way of us being in the moment. These are the social connections that nurture our souls and play an essential role in our happiness (Demir, Simesk & Procsal, 2012), they deserve our full attention and to be maintained, anything less and it can have an effect on our happiness.
Here are some ways to get physiological benefits from our relationships:
- Conversation – reach out to reconnect with an old friend.
- Give or receive a hug.
- Be around other people - get out and about.
- Do something kind for a friend.
- Cheer for your favourite sports team – engage with others in a common cause.
- Cuddle or pat your pet.
Diener, E., & Seligman, M., (2002). Very happy people. American psychological society, 13 (1), 81 – 84.
Breines, J., (2014). Are some social ties better than others?. Greater Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life
Demir, M., Simsek, O. F., & Procsal, A. D., (2012). I am so happy ‘cause my brest friend makes me feel unique: friendship, personal sense of uniqueness and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1201 – 1224.