This post talks about the effects of different relationships on our mental health. It overviews the way in which we create relationships from childhood to adulthood as well as how the significance of certain relationships can differ with time.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, a relationship is defined as “the way in which two or more people are connected, or the state of being connected”. Throughout our lives, our relationships with others will continuously develop and change with time. Since relationships can play such a significant role in dictating our mental health, it’s important that we understand how to maintain healthy relationships and recognize when we are in a relationship that may be toxic to our mental and emotional health.
Throughout childhood, it is the interactions that we have with our parents, guardians and family that shape the foundation of our relationships and social knowledge. Quite often we will mimic their behaviour and the way in which they interact with others. Because of this strong dependence on role-modelling, negative experiences with family such as divorce or family breakdowns can have a serious impact on our ability to create successful relationships with others in the future. The effects of divorce on children have been shown to result in an increased risk of psychological problems including depression, anxiety, and mood swings. As we transition from childhood to adolescence, we are no longer solely dependent on familial relationships, and instead shift our focus to friends and peers. Contingent to the relationships created with these people, these experiences can have both positive and negative impacts on our mental health. While many adolescents are able to form beneficial bonds with friends, teachers, and coworkers, it is also common for them to be subject to social isolation or bullying. In some cases this can have a severely detrimental effect on mental health and may lead to self harm, development of an eating disorder, increased usage of drugs and alcohol, as well as an increased engagement in risky behaviour
Although maintaining adult relationships may not be deemed as important as those throughout childhood and adolescence, stable relationships throughout adulthood are extremely beneficial for our mental health. It can be hard to make time for family and friends with the added stress factors of jobs, money, and simply managing our lives, but it’s important that we still try to foster and maintain healthy relationships in order to avoid isolation and loneliness. According to Mental Health UK, having a friend that is happy and lives close by can increase happiness by as much as 25%. As we grow older, maintaining these stable relationships becomes more important than ever. For many elderly, it is hard to stay connected with friends and family, especially with the development of long-term illness or transfer to long-term care facilities. This isolation largely impacts mental health and often results in feelings of depression and loneliness.
Maintaining Healthy Relationships
Since the quality of relationships has been shown to have such a significant impact on our happiness, it’s important that we learn to maintain them in the best ways possible. Set aside time to focus on all your relationships, and make the effort to be present during these times. This may mean disconnecting from social media, or putting your work-life on hold. Furthermore, make the effort to engage in meaningful conversation by actively listening to what others have to say, and trying to share honest feelings and opinions.
Identifying Unhealthy Relationships
Whether it’s at work, or at home, toxic relationships can make us feel drained, anxious, and even unsafe. Unhealthy relationships come in all types of forms but there are a number of signs that are usually helpful in deciding whether you should continue to maintain this relationship or not. Lack of trust, narcissism, disrespect, dishonesty, and lack of communication, are some of the signs that indicate that you are in an unhealthy relationship. As well, if you feel as though you are constantly emotionally or mentally drained after spending time with this person/people, it may be time to reevaluate how you want to proceed with this relationship. If your mental health is in jeopardy or being affected negatively, consider ways to safely remove yourself from the toxic relationship in order to focus on more positive ones