Are you choosing the right medicine?
The medicine for your best health lies in plain sight, but worse yet, even when we see it, we often push it away. We spend inordinate time thinking about what could make us healthier and happier but the answer is EACH OTHER. The quality of the relationships in your life are your biggest priority or at least research says they should be. But why do we get it wrong so often? I would suggest if we know this AND ALSO stay grateful for this, then we will choose the best medicine, every time.
It has been clear for a long time but let's review a summary of the research so I can get you on the same page for the sake of my argument. For decades now, the research has built upon and confirmed itself. One study of more than 300,000 people even showed that a lack of strong relationships increased premature death by up to 50%. Now, that's approaching numbers of the risk of daily smoking which we all agree is bad for our health. And those who define themselves as lonely do poorly on the most important health outcomes.
We know that midlife women who were in satisfying marriages had lower rates of CVD than those in less satisfying marriages. Probably the most defining study recently published was 75 years in length! It only looked at men unfortunately but in this study, the outcome was clear. Loving, strong relationships kept these men healthier. Period. Are you starting to get the idea here?
I think that of utmost importance to note is that it has never been the number of relationships but rather the quality of those relationships that matters. The relationships do not have to be of romantic nature either. What is important is that we have loving relationships in which we can have a depth of vulnerability, an ease of being who we really are. That authenticity is crucial. These threads of connection help us releive the stress in our lives. We are not acting or making ourselves out to be something we are not. We are just being who we are, surrounded by love.
The quality of how we connect to those we love in our life is what will make us healthier. Value your vulnerability and authenticity and these relationships will feed you.
Now, my point is that if we can all agree that the quality of our relationships is important...I am hoping you are with me on that one...Then we can agree that we need to prioritize that. Take a moment to have gratitude for any and all relationships in your life that fit this image above. Really, come on. Close your eyes and take a deep breath and notice what it feels like to recognize the gratitude we have for these people and what they give us.
Now, open your eyes and promise me you will prioritize these relationships as the most important medicine you can take. What I mean is:
1. Next time you are choosing to be at work late and you miss a family dinner or time with friends, think about which one is contributing to your health and happiness more. That's a trick question. You know what to choose.
2. Next time you are staring at a screen and not connecting with someone you love in front of you, think about what you are choosing. Is this the medicine you need?
3. Next time someone you love needs you and you choose to not be there for them, think about how that is not contributing to the quality of that relationship. Now, we are not always able to be there for everyone we love every time but what if even when we are not able, we express our gratitude and love to that person and our sincere sadness that we are missing something important to them?
You get to choose your medicine every day.
Keep gratitude for your relationships in your mind and heart and you will always choose the medicine you need for your best health.