Relationships have a significant impact on our wellbeing. They can help us become better versions of ourselves or leave us drained, depleted and broken. The company you keep can influence both how well you live and how long you live.
Our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health are interconnected. Our relationships can influence our everyday routine, habits, our perception of ourselves, and the universe of experiences we have in this lifetime. We may not think about this as we navigate our relationships, but our relationship choices can impact our health in significant ways.
Health, Genetics and Relationships
Left unattended for long periods of time, negative emotions and negative thinking take their toll on us physically. Some studies found a link between the quality of marriage and the risk of heart disease. One of the more obvious ways in which toxic relationships can affect your health is stress – the more stressed we are, the more cortisol we release. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is linked to inflammation, which is connected to a host of chronic diseases.
Other studies suggest that having a strong social network can reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack. Indirectly, relationships affect your physical health by influencing your daily habits. Your relationships can also affect your daily routine and your social circle.
Our relationships can even affect our DNA, and leave a mark on our genetic code. This is known as gene expression. Throughout life, our genes are switched on and off. Our lifestyle, diet, and relationships can have an effect on this. Our relationships have the power to change our DNA, and leave a mark on our genes. This is known as epigenetics. A study found that the genes of people in bad relationships were altered.
Genetics often gets the credit for our health and longevity, but it is actually a combination of your genetics and your environment; your genes and the environment you live in have a symbiotic relationship. Even though our genes are the same genes that were passed down to us by our parents, our environment can actually change the way those genes are expressed. This means that while genetics can predict a lot of your health outcomes, they shouldn’t limit you. Instead, they should inspire you to be proactive in your health and well-being, and work with your genes, rather than against them.
This also means that we have power over the quality of our lives and the longer-term outcomes. Our health doesn’t deteriorate in one single moment – many of the conditions we struggle with are the result of incremental deterioration over the years.
The Most Important Relationship
Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you have. How you treat yourself determines the quality of your life – it dictates how well you take care of yourself and what you allow in your relationships. If you are struggling with poor health or difficult relationships, start by improving your relationship with yourself. We tend to ignore red flags and toxic situations in our lives if we have low self-esteem and don’t think we deserve better.
Some of us grew up in environments that taught us that we and our needs do not matter. As a result, we are willing to accept abuse and circumstances that are not aligned with our value and wellbeing. The longer we allow these situations to continue, the more severe their impact on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
To take stock, step back and evaluate your lifestyle, choices and relationship dynamics. Consider their quality – not your willingness to accept them or tolerate them. You might discover that some of your own behaviours are not what you would like them to be. If your circumstances need improvement, seek to understand and heal the patterns that push you in unhealthy directions.You might need to work with a therapist or coach to help you gain clarity, and explore the universe of possibilities available to you.
Toxic relationships cause a lot of stress and anxiety. In these relationships, we experience unhealthy codependent patterns, unhealthy communication patterns and even emotional or physical abuse. They can be with romantic partners, friends, family members, colleagues or bosses. We might suppress our self-expression, doubt our own value, feel a lot of guilt, and take responsibility for problems that do not belong to us.
These relationships take a toll on your health, both mentally and physically. If you are in a toxic relationship, you may feel trapped. It is important to remember you always have choices. You need to recognize these relationships for what they are, even if they are romantic. If there are signs that your relationship is unhealthy, you need to take the necessary steps to either change it or exit.
Such relationships can lead to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and mental health issues. Over long periods of time, these relationships can erode our sense of self and confidence in our abilities. You might be more vulnerable to anxiety, panic, depression, alongside a host of physical health risks. When we are stressed, we can have increased cravings for unhealthy foods, be more vulnerable generally to addictions, find it difficult to sleep, or lack motivation to take positive action. All of these can take a significant toll on our health in the short and long run.
A healthy relationship is beneficial for both people. Healthy relationships are built on communication, trust, and mutual respect. Loving kindness, patience, acceptance, and honesty, are the order of the day. In a healthy relationship, we own our own emotional and mental states and value the other person for who they are rather than for what they can do for us.
When we feel loved, connected, and supported, our mental and physical health tend to improve. This is true for romantic relationships, but also our relationships with friends, family, and even pets. A good relationship can create a positive feedback loop. It can help us appreciate life and be grateful for what we have. This has a knock-on effect on our mental health and well-being. When we feel connected to others, we care more about our well-being.
Research found that those who are in a positive relationship have stronger immune systems, better sleep patterns, and less stress. Positive relationships are tied to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is also connected to increased inflammation and chronic conditions.
Is It Time For a Change?
Obviously, there are a lot of factors in our lives that influence our wellbeing. But if you struggle in a relationship, it is best to step back and evaluate. Sometimes, we need to adjust our point of view, forgive more and show up with more generosity and kindness. Other times, we need to acknowledge that our relationship is simply not healthy for us.
Whatever the case may be, it is important to confront what is not working in your life so you can have more control over the quality of your life. It may not be easy, but it puts you on track to own your power and health joyfully in your life. When we pursue our wellbeing and empowerment, we can also attract relationships that are healthy for us.