By: Angie Horjus, NBC-HWC
Congratulations, we made it through a busy holiday season in one piece. It’s now January and along with doing our best to stay warm, many of us are working on our New Year’s resolutions to live healthier. Maybe it’s a new diet or exercise plan, quitting smoking or getting your finances in order. Those are some of the most popular go-to resolutions. As a health coach, I always tell my clients to think beyond just wellness to what could be impacting your overall wellbeing? This month I’d like to explore the importance of healthy relationships.
All healthy relationships have one thing in common—they’re reciprocal. You wouldn’t just show up at work and pour your best into every project and task without expecting a paycheck, right? I ask my clients, what are your checks and balances and how do they look in the important relationships in your life: family, friends, neighbors, work colleagues, even yourself?
Healthy relationships are alive, aware and conscious. They’re based on transparency, honesty, strong trust and integrity. If you have relationships in your life that don’t include these qualities, it might be time to weed them out. Choosing friends and close associates with care not only promotes positivity and boosts mental fitness, it’s also a sure way to be and stay supported.
Here are some exercises you can do if you are evaluating relationships in your life.
- Be aware. The first step is to be willing, open to and curious about what will unfold as you assess your closest relationships. Increased mindfulness in one area leads to increased mindfulness in all areas. We all have the ability to be more mindful.
- Be open to possibilities. Say to yourself: I’m grateful for this opportunity and looking forward to this positive adventure. Know that even taking steps to limit a toxic relationship can have positive implications on your own health and wellbeing, and maybe the other person’s as well.
- Define your “why.” Ask yourself why you are in each relationship. What does it mean to you? What is in it for you? What are you giving? Getting? Feeling? Wanting? Write down your thoughts on paper—seeing it in black and white can help you define where you want to take a relationship. It’s important to understand why you keep certain people around, especially if a relationship doesn’t feel right to you.
- Set boundaries. Parameters keep us safe. This can be particularly healthy for a family member or co-worker you wish you could avoid but can’t. Write down a set of healthy rules for this relationship. For example, if it’s a colleague at work whose negativity is contagious, limit interactions in the lunch area or break room and instead take a brief walk outside or set a lunch meeting with another co-worker who lifts you up. If it’s a family member, set limited time to connect with a clear beginning and end time and a neutral location, like a coffee shop or catching a movie together.
- Enhance your closest circles. Ask yourself how you can enhance your closest relationships this year. Maybe it’s a scheduled, regular date night with your partner or a family movie night that includes the kids once a month. With your work family, it could be a new rule of common courtesy, such as ending meetings on time or not bringing in tempting treats when you know others are trying to eat healthier. With a close group of friends, maybe this is the year you finally start the book club you’ve been talking about or book that weekend trip away together.
- Go beyond your closest connections. If relationships in your closest circles are all healthy, this could be the year you branch out a bit more in your community. Consider volunteering at a local organization close to your heart or supporting a cause with a donation.
- Examine your role in relationships. What behaviors do you consistently exhibit with others that could use a tuneup? For example, communication is key for healthy relationships, and that means good listening. Are you listening as well as being heard in your relationships? If not, try these 6 simple ways to be a better listener.
- Don’t forget about yourself. Your relationship with yourself matters. How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind? Encouraging? Loving? If you find you tend to be more cruel than compassionate when self-talk occurs, try these 11 tips to improve your relationship with yourself.
- Think about what you eat. We’ve all heard it—you are what you eat. The same healthy qualities in relationships with people apply to your relationship with food. The act of eating provides a wonderful opportunity to become mindful. Instead of rushing through meals or snacks, we all have the choice to slow down and pay attention. Finding a healthier tempo in which to ingest our nutrition may increase enjoyment, change our relationship with food and make us more conscious of how much we’re actually consuming. Try stepping away from the desk to have lunch and turn off the screens at home during mealtime. Such mindfulness opens the door to improved eating habits and fuller experiences in other areas of life.
So whether you’re looking to fix a negative relationship or enhance how you interact with those closest to you, you have the power to make 2019 the year you focus on making your relationships healthier. Your health—and personal wellbeing—will thank you.
About the Author: Angela Horjus, NBC-HWC is among the first National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches at Priority Health, and in the U.S. She approaches her clients and all people with curiosity, respect and a spirit of fun. Angela’s passion for helping others become the best versions of themselves has inspired her current work as a health and wellness coach and throughout her past ventures. Her fitness career of 20 years, including but not limited to group fitness and personal training, cultivated the inspiration to write articles promoting self-improvement and personal growth. Angela’s continuing education is with nationally recognized institutions in health, fitness and wellness specialties. She also has a bachelor’s degree in English from Grand Valley State University. Angela is currently working on her American College of Lifestyle Medicine certification.