The connections we have with those near and dear to us have a positive impact on our overall mental health and wellbeing. As well as being a vital support network for us, our relationships play an important role in our learning and growth. It’s not just romantic relationships either – this applies to all relationships in our life. Developing these meaningful relationships can help us to cope with stress or anxiety, by having someone to depend on that we trust.
What makes a relationship meaningful to us? What’s the science behind their importance? How can we enjoy more meaningful relationships? Let’s dive in.
What makes a relationship meaningful to us?
Whether it’s a partner, family member or friend, we all have people who are special in our lives. It could be someone we’ve just met at a new job or a colleague we’ve known for decades. Regardless of how long you’ve known them, they’re someone that we can talk freely with about what’s bothering us, and we can depend on them when we need support.
Why is this the case?
Open and honest conversations leave less room for misunderstandings or disagreements. You might not agree 100% with their views, but you both listen and appreciate each other’s opinions in a respectful way. You both feel valued and heard.
When they call, you’re there. When you need their support, they’ve got your back. This reliability has its roots in our priorities and who we see as important in our lives. Our relationship becomes more meaningful when there’s mutual support.
We’ve all had those friendships with people we went to school or work with, simply because our schedules were the same. But working to create a deeper relationship can help you to get past the surface level conversations about the weather, and give you a reason for having the person in your life.
Why are meaningful relationships important?
We’ve mentioned that our relationships are good for our mental health, but strong connections may also have an impact on our career success. For example, having a good relationship with your partner might mean they’re able to encourage you to put yourself forward for a promotion, helping you to believe in yourself even if you feel like an imposter.
How do I do this?
So, how can you nurture, develop and strengthen your close relationships and turn them into meaningful connections? Here are three practices that you can bring into your everyday life.
Telling our friends or family that we’re thankful for them can reinforce our bond with them and show our appreciation. It’s even been shown that our relationships are stronger with those we express gratitude to. You could start with sharing one small thing you’re grateful to each other for, or use your journal to help you explore what you’re grateful for about your relationship.
Recognising our barriers of connection
If you feel like you’re struggling to get the most out of your relationship, check-in with yourself and understand what’s stopping you. Are you not making the time or putting the same amount of effort in? Have you inadvertently built walls and don’t know how to break these down?
Recognising these behaviours can help you to see that you need to invest in your relationships to strengthen your bond. Since COVID-19, it’s been so easy to rely on technology and texting friends and family, so picking up the phone can help us to maintain these connections.
Practicing listening skills
By listening, we understand the other person’s wants and needs. Taking steps to improve your listening skills can help you to acknowledge what they want out of the relationship too. It goes hand in hand with having honest conversations, responding with the right questions and reading social cues. Mindful listening is one of the ways we can do this.
Cultivating a happier you
Being happy is much more than simply wearing a smile on your face. It’s about having a positive outlook on your present and future life, getting a buzz from engaging in healthy habits, living life optimistically and purposefully, enjoying meaningful relationships, feeling satisfied that you’re contributing to society through work or other activities, being productive, and taking more chances.