Friends in a coffee shop

13 Feb 2023

Nurturing Healthy Relationships

We often associate the month of February with romance because of Valentine’s Day. But love is multifaceted and can be felt and shown in a multitude of ways – with the deep affection we have for our friends and family no less important.

So, we would like to take this Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to focus on how we can develop and nurture meaningful, healthy relationships.

The importance of relationships

Relationships enrich our lives in many ways, improving our mental health and overall happiness. Indeed, research suggests that relationships are just as important to our physical wellbeing as eating right and exercising.

We tend to build connections with people with similar values and interests so that we feel understood and supported. But relationships can also challenge us in positive ways: to live more purposeful lives, to pursue our interest and to develop and grow as people. And over time, these connections may grow or change as we grow and change.

We encourage you to think about the people in your life who inspire and motivate you. If you feel that you could have more support in certain areas in your life, consider the steps you could take to form new relationships, such as joining a club or reaching out to colleagues at work.

How to support healthy relationships

  • Quality not quantity

Having a few close friends who you feel truly connected can be far more rewarding than having a large circle with whom you struggle to keep up with. It’s also important to have different friends who fill varied roles in your life.

  • Be creative

Spending time with friends doesn’t have to involve anything fancy or time-consuming. Could you fit any of these activities into your schedule?

- Meeting up to walk the dogs

- Grabbing coffee together

- Taking your children out for a playdate

- Exercising together

Try to get some in-person time with your friends – but email, phone calls and texts are also great communication tools for when you can’t meet up or for those who live further away.

  • Note your feelings

Spending time with friends can greatly improve your emotional wellbeing, so remember that feeling whenever you’re tempted to cancel or re-schedule. Relationships take time and effort, but it’s worth it!

  • Communicate

Keeping communication flowing is a way to let someone know how you can support them. You can ask them questions like, ‘What helps you feel better?’, ‘When are you happiest?’, and ‘What’s the best thing I can do to support you?’. Spending time discussing someone’s mental health can not only help them, but also make you feel empowered and better equipped to support them too.

  • Manage your expectations

Discomfort or anger can arise when expectations don’t align. They can also damage our self-esteem when the other person hasn’t put in the same effort or not as much thought as you’d like. Try not to let your expectations cause strife – be patient and compassionate.

  • Reassess your boundaries

Understanding our own boundaries can help to make us stronger. You need to know what you deserve, and what’s unacceptable. You might find you need to begin to practice saying, ‘No’ politely but firmly, and addressing situations where you feel you should be treated differently.

Keeping communication open with your partner, family and friends is vital to maintaining healthy relationships, but making sure you check in with yourself regularly to see how you feel is also very important. Once you begin to learn your boundaries and put them in place, you’ll feel empowered and see your self-esteem climb.

  • Remain open to new connections

It's human nature to grow, change and evolve over our lifetime. Friends come and go as we sometimes drift apart, moving away, developing new interests or simply finding less in common with one another as we get older.

Try to remain open to meeting new friends at any time, in any place, embracing these new-found connections.