Relationships, Mental Health and Physical Well-Being

This is the second of  two posts devoted to Lifestyle and Mental health this week. On Monday, I wrote about the benefits of Nature.  As more connections are being made between mental health and physical health, psychologists are drawn further into additional areas of people’s lives. The powerful influence of your lifestyle (exercise, relaxation, nutrition, play, stress management, spirituality) over your mental health is  proved over and over through research studies.

Today, we look at the intersection of relationships, mental health and physical well being.  I’m not talking about marriage; this is a broader concept about being part of a collective of people rather than being isolated.

Since the 70’s, social psychology studies have found that good relationships aid well-being, mental and physical. Here are some of the newer findings.

Good relationships are associated with:

* increased happiness,

* quality of life,

* resilience,

*cognitive capacity, and

*maybe even wisdom.

We are interdependent creatures with the need to relate to others. Even in therapy, clients who have good relationships with their therapists do better than clients who don’t. The therapy relationship (genuine, although odd) is a process in which people learn how to improve close relationships with family and friends.

Social isolation is increasing. We have everything we need at home; giant refrigerators, giant TVs, online shopping, internet games (I”m loyal to Boggle), we text, we have food delivered…you get it). Today, Americans spend less time with family and friends than in past years; there is less involvement in civic groups, and certainly more time online having all types of interactions (but that is a post for another day).

Support and trust are positively correlated with lower

poverty, less crime, less drug abuse, and increased mental and physical well being. the answer: join something that is not about you – a community group, volunteer, get involved in politics, start a neighborhood project, something.

source: Roger Walsh in American  Psychologist October, 2011.

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