Being able to be yourself in your relationships and establishing strong, healthy social ties are crucial to your mental health. However, being able to thrive in a relationship, whether it’s love, friendship, family, or work, isn’t always so simple. Humans are complex beings, and two people are even more so when they’re in a relationship! What’s the recipe for positive, healthy relationships?

Maintaining a GOOD social network

For some people, connecting with others comes naturally. It’s easy to get lost in the world of social networking, where relationships abound, but they can be superficial and ephemeral. For others who are shyer or introverted, it’s more energy-consuming and more effort is needed to get there, and that’s normal! 

However, it’s worth investing time and energy in nurturing the relationships that make us feel good, since having a healthy social network is the key to success because:

  1. It helps if you’re going through an ordeal or a stressful situation.
  2. It allows you to change your thoughts, get advice or other points of view, and feel part of a group.
  3. It helps reduce stress levels and take care of mental health.

It’s normal for your network to evolve over time. Sometimes you may realize that it’s better to have a few quality contacts than to know a lot of people who won’t be there when you need them.

In a healthy relationship:

  1. The person accepts you as you are, respects you, listens to you and is honest.
  2. The person will show empathy and support for what you’re going through.
  3. The emotions felt in exchanges should be mutual and reciprocal.

If you don’t feel the pendulum swing back from the efforts that you’re making to take care of the relationship, you can review your priorities. It’s justified to want to leave certain relationships that aren’t satisfying or that bring you more negatives than positives. 

communication

Each relationship is unique and presents its own challenges, as individuals bring their own experiences, emotional baggage, and upbringing to the table. Prejudices, past heartaches, and unspoken expectations can also influence the dynamics and quality of exchanges.

In any relationship, being able to communicate your needs, expectations and limits can avoid many misunderstandings. Communication helps you to adapt and respect the other person, and vice versa. Communicating with respect, attentiveness, and caring, require:

  • Recognizing the other person’s experiences and wounds.
  • Taking the time to listen to others and remaining receptive.
  • Paying attention to the non-verbal language of others.
  • Using a pleasant, respectful tone of voice.

Nonviolent communication

In the event of conflict, nonviolent communication is a very interesting technique to try out to achieve a healthy relationship. It involves showing empathy and focusing on conscious, constructive exchanges. It is based on the four following principles:

1- Situation: Observe and objectively name disturbances without passing judgment.

2- Feeling: Recognize your own emotions.

3- Need: Identify and express desires or needs.

4- Ask: Make a clear request.

Coping with loneliness

Basically, solitude isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can even be a good way to rest or to work through a situation. A bereavement, a break-up, or an important project such as writing a thesis can also motivate you to take some time for yourself. This state is temporary, and social life eventually becomes a priority again.

Conversely, there’s loneliness that you don’t want. It happens when you want to be in a relationship with people, but you can’t. It can happen even if you have lots of social contacts, but there’s an emotional distance in these non-meaningful relationships. This kind of loneliness can be difficult in the long run. Here are a few tips to break the isolation:

  • Find opportunities to meet new people through activities that match your interests (e.g., classes, joining a group or a sports club).
  • Identify your thoughts and make sure that your perception doesn’t taint reality (e.g., wrongly assuming that someone doesn’t want to see you).
  • Open up and express your needs to the people you meet and those around you, talk to people and see if there’s a possibility of forging deeper bonds.
  • Show interest in your loved ones, contact them to check in, talk to them, actively listen and take action if necessary.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your loneliness and it’s affecting your life and enjoyment, don’t hesitate to ask for help from resources in your school or community.

As a complement, you can also watch these videos from Station SME on communication, social ties and mental health.

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References

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Rosenberg. M. (2018) La communication non violente au quotidien.

Tougo (2020) Entretenir ses relations avec les autres

Credits

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Illustrations : Mario Fontaine

Contribution to the article : Isabelle Queval, psychologist

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