Relationships don’t have to be romantic to be beneficial, people were designed to co-exist and whether you share your closest intimacies with a partner, a friend, or a family member, the health benefits of having someone close to you are huge.
Anxiety and depression
Social isolation is linked to higher rates of depression. Friends, family and loved ones provide you with a healthy ‘outside perspective’ that prevents you from being overly critical of yourself. Being part of a loving, stable relationship with another person also has a positive impact on your anxiety levels. In a study presented at the 2008 conference of the Society for Neuroscience, people in a long-term relationships showed increased activation in the areas associated with bonding, and less activation in the area that produces anxiety.
Happy relationships are good for blood pressure. In a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found that spending time with people is vital for your health. This covered happily married couples, unhappily married couples, singles with strong social networks and singles without. The conclusion suggested that while people in happy relationships had the best blood pressure, people in unhappy relationships fared the worst. This suggests that it’s not just having relationships that matters, but the quality of your relationships.
Interestingly Doctors at the University of North Carolina have found that hugging may also dramatically lower blood pressure and boost blood levels of oxytocin, so cuddle-up. Be it a friend, a sibling, or a partner, hugs are good for you.
The comfort of holding the hand of a loved one can actually minimize feelings of pain. During electric-shock treatment, patients who held the hand of a loved one felt less pain than those who braved the test alone. The findings in this study also related to the quality of the relationship; the most positive impact was felt by people holding the hand of a person with whom they share a very positive connection.
People are more likely to keep to a physical exercise regime if they stick together. Simply put we don’t want to let someone else down, and we enjoy working out competitively. It's estimated that when you exercise with a friend or partner you will push yourself 15% harder than you would on your own. To optimise the success of your plan, make sure you set aside a time that fits with both of your schedules, either early in the morning or during your lunch break.
If you are feeling depressed or anxious, our babylon doctors are available between 8am and 8pm 7 days a week, and they are happy to help.
To develop loving relationships that will give you the benefits listed above, here are some tips:
Learn to communicate. This can only be done with practice, and the best way to start is by asking people questions. Strangely enough people find you more interesting if you ask them questions and listen attentively to their responses. This takes the initial pressure off you, and gives you the chance to learn a lot.
Do things that are challenging or exciting with your friend or partner on a regular basis. Go on an adventure, go for a walk, pick a train stop at random and go there for the day. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to be far, just far enough to not be normal.
Make time to celebrate each other’s happy times. You hear that your friend got that promotion they’ve been working towards? Arrange to meet for a drink to toast their achievement. People appreciate being the centre of attention, and while we’re all too keen to meet up and complain about the bad stuff, we rarely take the time to pause and look at what’s good in our lives.
Start now, and make this year happier and healthier for you and those closest to you.