5 Ways Healthy Relationships Impact Your Health
Remember that moment you met your best friend? You felt an instant connection and knew that this person really understood you? Suddenly you found yourself giddy, excited to get together for coffee or dinner, and even found yourself texting them randomly throughout the day? It’s so good.
When I met my husband, we were at a football game. Our eyes locked and I had to know more about him. One week later we were on a date, and it was arranged for us—an almost blind date. I sat across from him at a pizza place and didn’t think about what I was eating, or drinking, or how many calories I was consuming. I just enjoyed getting to know him.
This is what a healthy relationship is all about. We talked through the college basketball game, and scheduled to go out again the next night. Suddenly, college wasn’t boring. I had something to look forward to. We saw each other nearly every day after that. It was amazing.
Healthy relationships can do more for your health than food and exercise. Yes. You read that correctly. Here are 5 ways that relationships impact your health in a positive way.
1. Starting a new relationship instantly releases dopamine in your brain.
I’m not saying it needs to be romantic in nature. I felt similar excitement when I met my friends. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone in the world. There were others that thought and believed like I do, and I found myself enjoying their company, conversation, and feeling less anxiety and stress.
Dopamine has the ability to provide feelings of euphoria. It is the chemical responsible for telling us we are safe and happy. This alone can impact our desires and habits. When our dopamine is high, for example, we make healthier choices in food, movement, and are more focused while we work. Suddenly, you don’t need the chocolate when you’re stressed, because your stress levels are in control knowing you have that person to spend time with.
2. Steady relationships provide comfort and safety.
We all feel like we are alone from time to time. The truth is that confiding in your spouse, significant other, best friend, or family member can allow you to process negative emotions and release your stress to focus on the solution. Venting is something we often use as a mechanism to process information.
Releasing the stress and allowing someone to help you come up with a solution is beneficial for lowering cortisol levels—the fight or flight system—and helps you regulate your emotions. Inadvertently, this decreases the odds of you choosing sugary foods and starches at mealtimes.
3. Practicing boundaries with loved ones can help you overcome limiting beliefs about yourself.
Even the word “boundary” seems to have a negative connotation to it. In a world where social media makes us feel like we are obligated to people please, it can be hard to set boundaries in relationships. I would challenge you to consider that creating and holding fast to boundaries can free you to be the person you truly are.
My husband doesn’t love when I tell him “no” to something he is asking. In fact, it usually creates a moment of stress for him. I used to say yes to everything and secretly resent him, when the truth was I had never told him how much it bothered me. I’m not suggesting you give up laundry because it doesn’t spark joy.
Women are notorious for giving more than they have.
We are caregivers by nature, even to our detriment. What would happen if you said “no” to the next person who asked you to do something that you didn’t have time for? Can I tell you? They will get annoyed or confused. You will get out of the thing you didn’t want to do. Let them feel their feelings, and you practice feeling free from obligation.
4. Creating space for friendship and love allows you to connect more deeply to who you are.
One of the most astounding observations I have made of people in new relationships is that through discovering new facets of other people, they are able to find more of themselves. I remember the first time I met someone who loved to work out. She was my college roommate and best friend. Because of her, I learned that I loved working out too.
Until she arrived, I hadn’t even seen the gym we had access to on campus. I hadn’t really needed to. Her attention to health and movement inspired me and made me curious about what running and weight lifting did for her. Suddenly, we were working out together each night and I felt amazing about myself. To this day, she works out, and I find myself inspired by her commitment enough to throw in a few days of movement myself. We had the best chats during and after movement.
5. Listening to those who know you best might reveal some hard truths you need to hear.
My mom has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. Sure, we argued and fought, and I’m pretty sure I thought she was out to destroy my life a few times, but she also knows me better than I know myself. Her insights, along with my husband’s, are nearly always spot on. When I’m struggling with a decision, or need to do something I hate, they are the one’s who can identify that my real issue isn’t the task at hand, but the fact that I’m avoiding it because it’s hard.
When we have difficult decisions to make, or need the space to create something new in our lives, having a healthy relationship with loved ones can provide the hard truth you need to hear.
My husband offers gentle reminders—“Babe, you probably don’t need that food right now. You’ll complain about it later.” Ugh. Sucks to hear the truth. Or my mom, “Just do it. You’ll get it done and feel better.” Point, set, match, mom.
We all need healthy relationships because they are what make up our existence. We were made to live in community with the people around us. When we are isolated, living in toxic relationships, or even ignorant of boundaries that need to be created, our health suffers physically and mentally.
Try conducting a relationship reflection. List the people who are in your life and what they do to provide you with stability, support, joy, love, and hard truths. Then, reflect on any boundaries they might be breaking (known or unknown) and have a conversation with them to establish some ground rules around your needs.
Finally, and probably most importantly, what are you offering to the relationship? When we are actively serving others and using our gifts to support those we love, we have rich fulfillment. That feeling releases more dopamine and reduces more cortisol. Your weight, your food choices, your joy and happiness can be directly affected by how you serve others.
Let me know in the comments how this resonates with you. I’d love to hear from you!