23 Dec 6 Ways to Cultivate Better Relationships for More Happiness
Happiness is an elusive topic that has been studied and contemplated by many throughout history. While there are many theories and ideas of what it means to be happy, I decided to focus on the relational aspect of happiness in this blog. As an Imago relationship therapist and someone who specializes in helping my clients achieve happy and healthy relationships I have come to view much of happiness through a relational lens.
It is no coincidence that online dating and the wedding industry are extremely successful businesses. Human beings seek and crave close and intimate relationships. When we feel loved and connected we feel “whole.” However, romantic relationships are not the only or even primary source of relational happiness. Friendships and family relationships can be just as important. When someone in therapy is going through a difficult time a psychotherapist may often ask, “who is your support network?” This is an important question because the stronger the support network, the easier the recovery. Feeling loved and supported by a “tribe” is often essential to how happy we are. In fact, research even shows the mental and physical benefits of friendship.
Of course on the opposite end of the spectrum, relationships also have the power to make us extremely unhappy. Being in the wrong relationship or being surrounded by people who don’t make us feel good or take advantage of us can feel awful and drain us emotionally. Positive relationships enhance our happiness but negative relationships have the power to make us unhappy. Because relationships are so powerful it is important to know how to cultivate fulfilling relationships. Throughout our lives no one teaches us how to be in relationships. There are no classes in school that tell us how to have healthy and happy relationships. We are often just navigating them on our own and learning as we go.
Given that we are often uneducated on healthy relationships, what are some things one can do to cultivate better relationships with others? Here are a few tips:
1. Empathy: The most successful relationship dynamics are when each person involved in the relationship has a strong sense of empathy. Empathy basically means that you are consciously thinking about how another person might feel and acting respectfully and thoughtfully accordingly. I’ve seen a lot of relationships end because of the narcissism, selfishness or entitlement of one person. If you want to develop a real sense of intimacy and closeness with another person you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. I believe that empathy is the foundation and core of any successful relationship.
2. Thoughtfulness and Generosity: When I use the word “generosity” I don’t mean that you should be buying your friends and family expensive gifts (or gifts at all). Generosity is emotional generosity. My grandfather died recently and some friends of mine wrote me really thoughtful cards which meant the world to me and made me feel really lucky. Even just checking in with someone on a regular basis to show you care is a sign of thoughtfulness and generosity. Showing appreciation through words, gift giving, verbal appreciation or any thoughtful gesture that shows someone you are thinking of them is also a form of thoughtfulness and generosity.
To read full article, visit the Huffington Post.