Good relationships are essential for good healthPosted by in Benefits of Life Coaching | Uncategorized
Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week (16-22 May) on the theme of relationships. It’s precious reminder to review our relationships – the one we have with ourself and the relationships we have with loved ones and friends. It also serves to remind us that connection and love are universal needs we all have to be well and happy – mentally, emotionally and physically.
“Good relationships help us live longer and happier lives with fewer physical and mental health problems.” Mental Health Foundation
Healthy and supportive relationships help us to flourish as individuals and as communities
‘We are hard-wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives”, Brene Brown, research professor in human connection.
We all long for connection and need to connect with others for our wellbeing and yet it is one of the most difficult things to do in our life. Why is that?
When our relationships feel difficult, when there is more bickering than harmony, when there is conflict and argument, it is because our needs are not met, for example our need for understanding, for respect, for acceptance, for recognition, for support, for love, for trust, for learning, for rest, for play…
Often when someone is not the way we want them to be, or does not do what we want them to do, we are quick to react, to judge, to blame because deep down we feel upset, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, even angry. And when we feel sad and frustrated we need understanding, we need love, we need connection, we need care…
What truly connects us to others is compassion. Compassion for ourselves and compassion for the other person.
Rather than saying how we feel and what we need, we often project our frustration onto the other person. It becomes about blame and judgement when we all want to be loved, liked, accepted, respected, cared for ….
When we can understand this, we know that no matter what a person is expressing, it is an attempt to express their need or longing.
I recently coached a couple. Although they loved each other very much, they found themselves often arguing. They turned to life coaching because they wanted to find a way forward. The ground rule for our coaching session was to listen without interrupting. They both had equal listening and talk time, and each had the opportunity to describe what had been going on from their perspective, expressing how they were feeling and what they felt was lacking, i.e.. which need wasn’t being met and what they needed. They could now see things differently. They could see things from each other’s perspective. They understood themselves better AND they could also see and understand the other better.
Communicating with compassion is radically different from how we often communicate. When we communicate with compassion, we let others truly see who we are, what we need. We let down our defences and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
A model for compassionate communication
This takes some practice but it’s worth it.
1. Describe neutrally (without judgement) what’s been happening for you, e.g. When I hear you say that this needs to be done by Friday ….
2. Describe how you feel…e.g . I feel frustrated and anxious…
3. Describe your need and longing. e.g. What I most need right now is understanding, some time, some space, some support…
4. Make a suggestion or request e.g. Would you mind taking me through it again slowly?
When did you last think about the quality of the relationships in your life?
Mental Health Awareness Week prompts us to think about the quality of the important relationships in our life and what we can do to improve them. It calls on everyone to make a ‘relationship resolution‘. It also invites us to share relationship tips – what you do for your relationships that works.
My tips to help you nurture and foster your relationships:
– Every day wish someone well: Throughout the day wish someone well – at home, at work, in your social or community groups. It can be the same person or someone different. We are in contact with many people in the day, seize that moment, and for just a few seconds wish them well – wish them a good day or afternoon. Notice the effect and how you feel.
– Make time to contact a close friend or family member you haven’t been in touch with for a while – pick up the phone or send them a postcard or letter (not text message)
– Smile more at your partner, children, a friend or colleague (or as many as you like) every day for one week and notice what happens, how you feel
– Every day pay someone different a compliment for one week and notice the effect it has on you.
– When asking someone ‘How are you?’, stop and listen, be interested in how they really are (it only needs to take five minutes).
– When you make yourself a cup of tea ask others around you whether they’d like a cuppa too.
– Help someone in need, notice someone under stress and lend a listening ear.
– Make time to write a personal thank you note/email/gesture to a colleague(s), friend, spouse or partner.
– Make quality time (you choose how you spend your time and with whom) for a dear friend every week – invite them for lunch or dinner, a cuppa, go for a stroll and share what’s been happening in your lives.
So, what will you do to honour and/or improve your relationships? I pledged to connect weekly with my dear friend Barbara, who lives far away, by phone, email or by sending her a postcard. She loves getting real mail. Despite the distance I always feel very connected, knowing that we are always there for each other.