The key to health is optimizing the 5 modifiable lifestyle factors. They are:
- Stress management
They are all equally important. The quality of your relationships is just as important to your overall health as the quality of your diet. Multiple studies reveal that married people live longer than unmarried couples–adding an extra 2+ healthy years to your life.
The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the quality of your relationships. Human beings are wired to be able to maintain 5 close relationships and 150 total relationships.
I think this is challenging in today’s world of social media. Prioritizing relationships with those closest to you and making them truly meaningful is very important to overall health and well-being. Additionally, your relationship with yourself is important too.
Here are my top 10 tips for healthy, meaningful relationships:
1: Identify your top 5. According to evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, we can maintain 150 relationships. The most important relationship usually should be your intimate partner. But who else is in your top 5? Who are your shoulder-to-cry-on-friendships? These are the people who will drop everything to support you when needed and you should do the same for them.
2: Invest in these top 5 regularly! It’s not enough just to identify the key players. Be proactive and intentional about giving your best to the people most important to you.
3: Prioritize yourself. In addition to these top 5, your relationship with yourself is critical. Just like on an airplane, if the cabin loses pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first and then help small children. We are so much better at giving love to others when we first learn how to provide it for ourselves.
4: Read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, if you haven’t already. This book was life-changing for me. People vary in how they receive love. Often we tend to provide love in the same way we receive it. However, if your love language is different than your spouse or your kids, they may not be receiving the love you are giving. It’s kind of like you are speaking Chinese to someone who only understands Spanish. The truth is most people have more than one language, but identifying the love languages of your spouse and kids will help you show them love better. And guess what? When those you love feel love, they like to try to return the favor.
5: Don’t take those you love the most for granted. Don’t be nicer to mere acquaintances than you are to your immediate family. It is true that you don’t have to hide your true feelings around those you love the most but I think it’s crucial to at least be aware of the tendency to give our worse to those we love the most. This is not ok.
6: Forgive easily. Holding a grudge hurts you more than it hurts the other person. Don’t waste any of your precious energy on hate and anger. It isn’t worth it.
7: Limit social media. Social media accounts are the highlight reels of people’s lives. Your real-life (with all the good and all the not-so-good) will never live up to someone else’s highlight reel. This very often leads to feelings of inadequacy and not-enoughness, which doesn’t help nurture your ultra-important relationship with yourself. I set a timer on my account for 15 minutes and strive to spend no more than that on Facebook per day. This is enough to keep me in the loop about what is going on with my casual acquaintances. It doesn’t take much time away from my most important relationships and keeps the feelings of inadequacy at a minimum.
8: Remember the kids will grow up and move away. Being a parent is the most joyous experience of my life and by far the hardest. I’ve done a lot of hard things in life and parenting takes first prize, no doubt. While I’ll always be their mom, my children’s dependence on me will shift as they continue to grow older. Nothing has gone wrong here, this is how it’s supposed to work. When these precious babies grow up and move away, I’ll be back to where it all started–my husband and me. At that time, I don’t want him to be a stranger or a roommate, or a co-parent that I’ve just tolerated over the last 20+ years. Therefore, I take time to invest in our relationship regularly. I do this to enjoy our life more now and to continue to build a strong foundation for a great relationship where we can enjoy growing old together and supporting each other long after the babies have grown and moved away.
9: Set boundaries. Don’t just respond to whatever life throws at you. If you want to live a life of intention–to get to a destination that you are aiming to get to, on purpose–you have to establish some core values for yourself. Then boundaries are very natural and easy to develop. Is this opportunity in alignment with my values for my life? If the answer is yes, then yes! If the answer is no, then no. The sticky part is the gray area, and, if you are anything like me, there are a lot of things that fall in the gray area. My favorite thing to say when someone asks me to do something is “let me think about it.” The people-pleaser in me wants to say yes to everything. But, I always remember this: saying yes to someone is also saying no to something else. I often say no to the good and yes to the great! If it isn’t a hell yes for me, often it’s a no. Some people won’t understand, and that’s ok. I understand.
10: Let other people be other people. We subconsciously have manuals for people in our lives. We know how we’d like other people to behave so we can feel good and be happy. When they happen to follow these unspoken rules, life is good! When they don’t, we often feel frustrated and upset. The truth is you know what is best for you. Other people know what is best for them. It’s not our job to control others so we can be happy, it’s our job to find happiness within ourselves. This is so freeing because it’s available to us at all times, whether or not the other people in our lives are on board.
Pick one of the tips mentioned above and incorporate it into your life. A healthy life with healthy relationships takes intention and planning but it’s so worth it. We are all headed somewhere in life. Make sure you are on an intentional path, not the autopilot default path, and you’ll be on your way to creating an even more amazing life.