Healthy Relationship Lead to Better Lives

Article excerpt

Unless you're shipwrecked on a deserted island, you probably enjoy a handful of close relationships. From spouses to children to friends, parents, siblings and significant others, healthy relationships build self-esteem, improve mental and emotional health and help you live a fuller life.

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"Relationships are--not surprisingly--enormously important for health, and there are lots of studies on the biological processes that account for the link between relationships and health," says psychology professor Arthur Aron, PhD, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at New York's Stony Brook University.

The quality of our personal relationships also has an enormous impact on our physical health, as evidenced by a hefty number of research studies.

"We support each other in getting enough exercise, eating right, flossing--all the things that make for better health can be supported or undermined by close relationships," Aron says.

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In the movie "Cast Away," Tom Hanks' character--stranded on an uninhabited island--creates a face on a volleyball and talks to the ball, which he names "Wilson," as if it were a person. Though fictional and funny, the gesture illustrates something very basic about us: Relationships are important--so important, in fact, that our brains are hardwired to form them.

"Evolution has set us up to be very good in relationships and to make them happen," says Aron, who also teaches an undergraduate course on close relationships. "We have evolved to form relationships and to keep them together to raise children."

That said, have you ever wondered why some of your relationships are more effective than others? Researchers have learned a lot in the last 30 years about what makes good relationships tick, and it boils down to just a few things. Unfortunately, most folks are only minimally aware of those elements, Aron says, and therefore aren't doing everything they could be doing to improve their relationships.

Mind your mental health

Without question, the mental health of all parties is the most important element of a good relationship. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, insecurity or low self-esteem, seek help from a health professional right away, because it's not just you, but also your relationship, that will suffer.

You can't always control the stressors in your life, but for your relationships to be effective, try to keep stress to a minimum. Also, be understanding when others are going through a tough time. …