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The Importance of Healthy Relationships

Here’s a question for you. What are the most important lifestyle habits that create health?  If you are like 90% of the people I’ve asked that question to in the past, you probably answered “diet and exercise”. While it is great that most people at least know about the need for a nutritious diet and quality exercise (whether they are actually doing it is another story) it is unfortunate that the other dimensions of healthy living are less universally acknowledged. As you know, we teach our community about the critical role of all 7 Pillars of Wellness. Today we want to touch briefly on the importance of developing and maintaining healthy, loving relationships or what we call “Loving Well”.

Relationship stress is a root cause of disease

It is important to remember that when you boil it all down, negative stress is the #1 cause of all disease.  This stress comes in many forms and has a profound negative effect on multiple systems of the mind body including your immune system, your hormones, your gut and your brain.  Well, here is something that you might not know. When researchers want to know how much stress a person has been living through they often use a specific questionnaire called the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory. What you might notice is that 10 of the top 15 stressful events we can experience have to do with our relationships with others.

Relationship stress impacts our biochemistry

The quality of our relationships has direct bearing on the level of security we feel when we are with them and how safe we feel to be ourselves. When relationships are strained it creates stress hormones and stress brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These powerful chemicals actually shape our thoughts and behaviors and current scientific understanding even points to the fact that they interact with our genes to turn on or turn off the many disease processes.

It Only Takes One Person to Change a Relationship

Maintaining healthy relationships with others isn’t always easy, is it?  We have to exercise patience, understanding and compassion and these characteristics take time to develop.  When others are offensive, either intentionally or unintentionally, we have to practice forgiveness and hone our skills at letting go.

It has been my experience that whatever is going on between me and the people I associate with, there is a component of that same relationship dynamic that is happening with my relationship to my self.  For example, when I’m frustrated someone who disappoints me or lets me down, I find that I also have some internal frustration with myself for not following through on something.  When I feel slighted by someone because they are acting selfishly it helps me see the times that I have acted the same way toward someone else.  These realizations allow me to feel compassion for those who’s actions otherwise would irritate me and more importantly it empowers me to work on my own inner self.

When we do the “inner” work on our relationship with our selves on a daily basis, we show up in our “outer” relationships differently.  We are more stable and harder to rattle.   We have a greater sense of order in our lives and what is amazing is that when ever two or more people are together, the one that is in the highest degree of order on the inside will be the healing and balancing factor to those that are disordered around them.

Take stock of the quality and depth of your most important relationships this week. Make an effort to see the beam in your own eye that you are irritated with in others.  Chances are you will find an area that you can clean up in your own life and that will shift the entire relationship without the necessity of the other person changing at all.


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