Positive Relationships: A Piece to the Happiness Puzzle

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Whether you are introverted or extroverted, all humans have a natural urge to feel a sense of belonging. Studies show that people are better able to manage stress when they have a positive support system and can lengthen our lifespan. Let me emphasize POSITIVE relationships.

Even when one of the original founders was asked the most important element of wellbeing, he stated “Other People.” So how can we build positive relationships? Are there ways to replenish ones that have been neglected?

Keep reading to learn some tips and tricks to increase or maintain positive relationships. Before we dive too deep into things, the introduction explains a little more about Positive Psychology overall!

Posted: June 5th, 2021

Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, all information and reflections are meant for educational purposes only. If you plan to make changes in your life, it may be worth consulting with loved ones and/or your wellness team. Also, this post may contain affiliate links that will connect you with some pretty cool products and when making a purchase through those links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Intro

Martin Seligman is the man responsible for the PERMA model and the growth of Positive Psychology. He has multiple books published, but the one I’ve been reading is Flourish. I wouldn’t say Flourish is a light read, as it talks a lot about research, but definitely a cool perspective!

That being said, let me mention more about the PERMA model. What does it stand for?

P (Positive Emotions)

E (Engagement)

R (Relationships)

M (Meaning)

A (Accomplishment)

The goal of Positive Psychology is for people to “Flourish” and the way to do this is foster a little of each of the above elements. Apparently, having fulfillment in each of these areas leads to lower risk of depression and higher life satisfaction (Rashid & Seligman, 2019). Now let’s get more specific to Relationships.

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    Benefits

    First off, I want to note that not all relationships are helpful. Experiencing abuse, neglect or manipulation can contribute to a multitude of negative experiences. Healthy relationships can be fulfilling and should provide a feeling of safety or understanding.

    What can positive relationships do?

    – Can lead to a longer life.

    – Help us cope better during overwhelming times and events.

    – Share memories and experiences (good and bad).

    – Provide comfort and safety.

    – Help hold us accountable for goals and wellbeing.

    – Can lead to an increase in motivation.

    – Help process difficult emotions.

    – Add laughter and fun into your life.

    – Motivate each other to try new things.

    – Increase Positive Emotions

    Building Positive Relationships

    Below includes multiple methods to help build relationships. Part of the process sometimes includes self-reflection and activities that help us move forward from past hurts.

    Our histories can interfere significantly with how we connect with others, but I hope that there is something in this list for everyone to consider.

    Small Acts of Kindness

    This is something I often hear people discuss for the general public, but what about for your friends and those you consider family?

    The best way to accomplish this is to:

    One: Learn their Love Language (acts of service, gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch or quality time)

    Two: Pick an activity that fills their cup, even if just a little.

    That said, those are personalized acts of kindness! You can literally do just about kind activity with good intentions to help bring a loved one joy. Who doesn’t like having a thoughtful friend or family member?

    Identify Their Strengths

    This can be a lone activity or one you do together!

    If you are alone, write down all of the qualities that you enjoy about the person. This can include their personality, memories, things they contribute to your relationship, hobbies, etc.

    If you are with the person, consider taking the VIA Character Strengths Survey to learn each of your strengths through a free psychological test. Once you can see what each of your top five strengths are, you can also look at the qualities you have similar and how your differences make your relationship stronger!

    Write a Letter

    Multiple resources I have come across recommend writing a thank you letter to someone you feel deserves it. Wouldn’t you enjoy a letter of appreciation?

    Some offer the suggestion of hand-delivering the message, so that you can also see the joy it brings them. I believe that this isn’t always possible, especially if they live far away. So from my perspective, building a bonded relationship by sharing a thank you with someone you love is great!

    Make sure you do write it and NOT text it or just say it. Solidify it in writing, which is something we do not get to see often anymore.

    Show Gratitude

    Speaking of showing thanks, how about the little moments of letting someone know they helped you out or brightened your day?

    I am a frequent user of gratitude lists and do them every morning and evening. These can be for things, events or behaviours from others. (See my Post on this HERE)

     

    The best times, though, are when I share the activity with friends or my partner! Even better, if you think of an activity someone did, share it with them after you’ve done your gratitude practice!

    Example: I am grateful for that cat meme you posted earlier. Made me laugh so hard…. Or…. I really appreciated the compliment you gave me about my outfit today. Helped me walk with more confidence!

    Gratitude practices can be a win for both you AND your relationships.

    Meaningful Convos

    I know not all friendships include deep and meaningful conversations, but hear me out. Superficial conversation about common interests, especially through a group or sports team, are totally fine! There is nothing wrong with great conversations, but…

    If you want to develop a closer relationship with a loved one, you are going to have to dive a little deeper. This may require some vulnerability on both of your parts.

    So how? Ask open-ended questions, which means questions that do not only require a yes or no answer. Get curious! Get the other person to be reflective! Of course, this form of friendship or bond must be reciprocal, and you’ll have to trust your gut on this one.

    That said, we can all use a little more MEANING in our lives…

    Schedule Time

    Lastly, we need to make time for each other. There are certain friendships of mine where we can go for months without talking, but once we do, we are right where we left off in laughter and updated conversation.

    Although this is true and I have no problem feeling connected to people from afar, this isn’t always the case! This is typically NEVER the case for people whose love language is Quality Time.

    So here is the thing, put your friendships on the To-Do List. This may come across as a little insensitive, but it is not. Adding people to your schedule is helping you prioritize togetherness.

    Everyone is different in what they need from their friendships, but regardless of the level of attention we each need, to have a close relationship with people you both need to put in the effort to communicate or hang out!

    Insight

    I would love to hear of other’s ideas to build bonds. Some of these exercises are researched through positive psychology, while others I think are just helpful and have been likely researched somewhere along the lines!

    Hopefully something resonated with you through this post, but remember, human connection can be a really positive thing. You are deserving of healthy relationships.

    References

    Guay, F., Ratelle, C., Larose, S., Vallerand, R. J., & Vitaro, F. (2013). The number of autonomy-supportive relationships: Are more relationships better for motivation, perceived competence, and achievement?. Contemporary Educational Psychology38(4), 375-382. https://corpus.ulaval.ca/jspui/bitstream/20.500.11794/13823/4/The%20number%20of%20autonomy-supportive%20relationships.pdf

    Rashid, T. & Seligman, M. (2019) Positive psychotherapy. In D. Wedding & R.J. Corsini (Eds.), Current Psychotherapies (11th ed.) 481-526. Cengage.

    Seligman, M. (2011).  Flourish: A visionary new understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Atria Paperback.

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