Emotional nourishment: The relationship reward

10.29.15 |

The people in your life have a powerful effect on your well-being

Your health is not a closed system. As much as we talk about how your choices affect the internal dynamics of your body—what you eat, how much you move, your sleep patterns, and so on. These choices are critical and are worthy of your attention, but the world around you also affects your health. Factor as seemingly benign as the air you breathe and the level of ambient noise you are subjected to each day can affect your health for better or for worse.

The environment around you matters, and the people in that environment matter as well. I’ve written about this before, but we are learning more and more about how the people in your life have a powerful effect on your well-being. A new study published in JAMA Surgery found that unmarried people have a 40 percent higher chance of a negative heart surgery outcome.

The value of emotional nourishment

In short, married people are more likely to have a better recovery from a major health procedure.
The key here is not the legal distinction of being married but rather the impact that a healthy, supportive relationship can have on your physical health. When you have meaningful connections with friends and family, your body reacts in positive ways. While we are not yet able to measure the exact value of emotional nourishment the way we can measure the value of the nourishment we get from certain foods, study after study has demonstrated that positive emotions like purpose, optimism, and related activities like smiling and laughter produce very real rewards.

Again, the takeaway from this should not be that you run out and get married if you aren’t married. Rather, you should invest time and energy into your relationships just as you invest time into work and into exercise. Don’t look at this as a chore. It’s a gentle reminder to stop out of your hectic schedule and to create memories with the people you love.

Tips to get you started

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Revisit family dinners. With everyone in the family going different directions, stopping to share a meal together can get lost in the hubbub. Block out time where everyone can sit down together and talk. Oh, and put away the cellphones when you do!
  • Share a hobby. Find an activity that you can enjoy alongside your spouse, children, or friends and make this hobby a regular part of your schedule. Anchoring your time around something you all enjoy can energize everyone involved.
  • Reach out and say hi just because. Haven’t talked to someone in a while? You don’t need an excuse. Give them a call and let them know you are thinking about them. You will probably make their day, and that positivity will circle back around to you.
  • Focus your attention. Whenever you are spending time with someone you care about, give them your full attention. Resist the urge to check email or to answer texts. If stress is following you home from work, you might need to consider a career adjustment.

Take care of the people you love. Your health and happiness depend on it!