One thing that is really important when it comes to enhancing our mental health is often overlooked. It is the connections (or relationships) that we have with others.
Strong connections give us the feeling of being supported……..safe. They can form the foundation of our overall well being. When we go through tough times, knowing that there are people that will be there for you no matter what can make a huge difference, even if you don’t reach out to them. Developing good connections can help us:
- reduce stress
- improve our self-esteem
- increase our positivity
The relationships we have with others can be seen as one of the most important things in our lives. It is much easier to be your authentic self when you have supportive people in your life. To know you have someone to fall back on if times get tough and on the flip side, for others to know that you are there for them too, is what creates the support system that we all need.
Connections, however, are not about how many “friends or followers” you have on social media platforms. It is the strong and deep relationships you have with a handful of people. We can have these connections with many different people across our lifetime, be it our family, friends, found family, teachers, colleagues and also, connections you have with people that you have never met face to face (so much more so in the past year).
At times, your connections with others can change. I know that as my life has progressed, those who I feel a strong connection to have changed from my earlier years and I can now identify four fabulous human beings that are my “people”.
Having just three “real” connections can form a foundation towards positivity and an overall enhancement of our mental health.
Remember, when I talk about enhancing mental health, I don’t mean that we are “happy” all the time. It is the ability to readily move ourselves along the mental health continuum and recognising then acknowledging when things aren’t so great, putting things in action that can support ourselves. Below are the links to the previous posts that can explain this in more detail.
How do you know if you have strong connections?
Ask yourself the following questions……….
- Are you close to anyone (can be family, friends etc)?
- Do you have people you can talk to about the “tough” things in your life?
- Are you there for your friends/family etc? – connections go both ways.
- Do your friends/people in your life treat you well? – if the answer to this is no, then you need to look elsewhere for your connections.
So what are the benefits of strong connections?
Well the simple explanation is, by developing these strong connections, it enhances our mental health and well being. These connections can create meaning in your life and help when dealing with depression and anxiety. There are also other aspects in our lives that these connections can help us with:
They can make you feel good. When you have people around you that are supportive, trustworthy and positive, this bleeds into our own lives. If you feel supported and trust people, it increases your comfort and ability to share with them around what has been happening in your life. Feeling that you have a safe space to share and being comfortable in showing your authentic self, can make you feel good and also create stronger bonds with those around you.
Increase our happiness. Having really good friendships and connections with your family (or found family) has been shown to increase overall happiness and when you are happy, you’re more inclined to attract more quality connections. Your happiness will increase others happiness, which will in turn, increase your happiness. It is a delightful cycle.
Provides a support network. These are so important when it comes to enhancing our mental health. Strong connections with others help develop a really good support network. The type of support that is beneficial if we are heading into tougher times. With the trust and safety that comes from these connections, our support networks become stronger and we are more ready to act on advice that they are inclined to give. We should also always be aware that support networks don’t take the place of trusted therapists or psychologists. There may come a time when we need to make sure we are truly looking out for ourselves and those that are a part of our connections, by ensuring clear boundaries are in place. The best support might end up being encouraging to seek out professional help.
So how can we build on these connections?
When you have strengthened your connections, you also need to continue to work on them. If you don’t work on them, they can fade away. Some key pointers to help are:
Express your positive thoughts. Positivity attracts positivity. We all know what it’s like if we are surrounded by negativity. It begins to eat away at you until it is difficult to remove yourself from the thoughts. When building on our connections, tell people you appreciate them. If they have done something nice, thank them. Shower them with gratitude. Think about how good it makes you feel to be thankful for someone and how it would make you feel if someone showed you gratitude. It won’t take long to give you that “buzz”.
Make time. We don’t stay connected if we don’t give each other time. Make sure you are communicating regularly and if it is someone local to you, create an activity that you can do together. If your connections are further away, make sure you are taking the time to contact and have meaningful conversations. Connect often!
Listen and acknowledge differences. You will never agree all the time and that is okay. Take the time to listen to each other and stay calm. Acknowledging differences and being able to calmly communicate through them is a sign of a truly healthy connection. Showing empathy goes a long way to creating trust and a safe space for everyone.
Who are your connections?