Guide to investing in your relationships

Good relationships protect our mental health and wellbeing at any stage of life. People who are more socially connected are happier, physically healthier and live longer.

Loneliness can be toxic to our wellbeing – our health declines earlier and we can have shorter lifespans. It’s important to remember that it is good, supportive relationships that protect our bodies and our minds.

This guide will outline what each of us can do to create better relationships with ourselves, with the people we are close to, and with those around us. 

Five universal tips for maintaining healthy relationships

  • Give time; Put more time aside to connect with friends and family.
  • Be present; It can be tempting to check your phone, Facebook messages or even work emails when with family and friends. Try to be present in the moment and be there for your loved ones, and switch out of work mode wherever possible.
  • Listen; Actively listen to what others are saying in a non-judgemental way and concentrate on their needs in that moment
  • Be listened to; Share how you are feeling, honestly, and allow yourself to be listened and supported.
  • Recognise unhealthy relationships; Being around positive people can make us happier. Our wellbeing can be negatively affected by harmful relationships, however, leaving us unhappy. Recognising this can help us move forward and find solutions to issues.

1. The relationship you have with yourself

Self-care is about looking after yourself and your mental health. The relationship you have with yourself is crucial to your own wellbeing and also to creating healthy and happy relationships with others. Being kind to yourself regularly is one of the best things you can do for yourself. 

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2. Healthy couples’ relationships

Healthy relationships should allow both people in the relationship to feel supported and connected, but also allow each person to maintain their independence. Communication and setting boundaries are two important components of a healthy relationship. 

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3. Schools

The school environment plays a critical role in the social development of its students. Teachers can work together with students in a number of ways to avoid isolating classmates.

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4. Universities

Student mental health is an important issue to address in higher education. Having student peers and maintaining good social networks throughout the university years protects against mental health problems and fosters positive mental health during stressful periods.

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5. Workplaces

The workplace presents a number of opportunities for people to develop their social networks. This can be through work itself, through leisure activities, or through shared interests such as sport and the arts. Approaches that increase employee health and wellbeing are also likely to influence and impact relationships in the workplace.

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6. Communities

What can you do to help strengthen community connections in your neighbourhood?

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7. Online

The internet has enabled us to make friends with people we don’t know and may never meet in real life. These relationships may not always be adding value to our lives and, instead, may be sources of anxiety. It’s important to regularly assess your contacts on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see if they need to be adjusted.

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8. Dealing with isolation

The role of being a parent or guardian comes with a number of challenges. This is more so nowadays, when parents may have double caring responsibilities for children and their own parents. It can be difficult to find time together as a couple or to do things for themselves. 

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9. Difficulties in building relationships

Not everyone finds it easy to stay socially connected or to make new friends. This might be due to being unable to leave the house, living a distance away from other people, or because social situations feel uncomfortable. Some people are more vulnerable – for example, if they move to a new area, have recently been bereaved, feel socially anxious, or live with a mental health problem that affects their ability to make and/or sustain relationships. 

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10. Toxic relationships

On the whole, relationships are good for us and, for most of us, are central to living a good life, but that’s not true of all relationships. Sometimes relationships in our lives can be harmful. 

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