Relationship concerns – either you communicate about them or you don’t, either you’ll do something about them or you won’t. Whatever you choose will determine the path you and your relationship goes down, be it between friends, lovers, with your parents or whomever. However, what happens to you when you refuse to deal with the emotions such issues give rise to?
Research spanning 12 years conducted by Chapman et al. (2013) found that those who suppress emotions, rather than confront them head on, may be at risk for earlier death, including death from cancer. Though it is yet unclear how this link between emotional suppression and earlier death may occur, the researchers state:
‘Suppression is believed to operate on health first at a behavioral level, by inducing unhealthy coping behaviors such as over-eating as substitutes for healthy emotional expression… Second, at a physiological level, higher levels of autonomic reactivity to stress–measured both electrodermally and through blood pressure changes–have been reported among suppressors… Direct correlations between suppressive defensive styles and both catecholamines and glucocorticoids have also been reported… In turn, neuroendocrine dysregulation, whether induced by stress processes or habitual health-damaging behaviors, has been implicated in the progression of a number of chronic diseases, and ultimately earlier death…’
Suppression also doesn’t help you to move on from the pain of whatever it is that is bothering you because you cannot heal it until you feel it. Emotions are the road signs to your happiness; when something feels ‘good’ your emotions are telling you what’s working and can or should continue and when something feels ‘bad’ your emotions are telling you what’s not working and cannot or should not continue. If you are pushing away an emotion then you are pushing away a learning moment and thus pushing away progress. Things don’t resolve themselves just because you ignore them. They usually actually only worsen over time because those problems are allowed to deepen, and in the case of relationships, deepen the divide between you and someone else. The reality is, if you refuse to confront negative emotions relating to a relationship you have basically decided to sabotage the relationship’s survival itself.
Research also shows that identifying a negative emotion with the correct label, rather than any old label, (a) helps diminish the brain and body’s fight-or-flight response, as noted by diminished activity in the amygdala and limbic regions, and (b) simultaneously engages the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region of the brain, an area implicated in ‘executive functions’ reasoning, planning and problem-solving and perhaps more specifically, the down-regulation of negative emotional responses.
Therefore, identifying your emotions with the correct word label, can in itself, provide instant relief, and of course, once you know your starting point, you can then work out what you need to do to get your relationships and your life to where you want them to be.
Emotions are a mental health feedback loop intended to serve you, your well-being and survival. Use it. Pushing emotions away through suppression isn’t going to serve you and your happiness and life goals, and they may even send you to an earlier grave, or if you don’t die younger, you may live a more unhealthy life. Is that what you really want? Or do you want to move beyond your current, temporary challenge and go on to live a life that makes you happy and healthy?
There are healthy ways in which you can deal with seemingly scary emotions and if you are afraid to confront emotions on your own then seek the help of a friend, family member or a professional, but do something about it, emotions are there to serve you and your goals…let them.
Chapman,B. P., Fiscella, K., Kawachi, I. Duberstein, P., Muennig, P. (2013). Emotion suppression and mortality risk over a 12-year follow-up. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 75(4): 381–385.
Lieberman, M. D., Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H. and Way, B. M. (2007). ‘Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli’, Psychological Science, 18(5): 421–8.
There is perhaps no greater human bond than that between a parent and their child. At the same time, bearing children can be a difficult task, one that can bring both joy and discomfort and for some, mental illness. Often times, mothers and fathers can experience marital problems or find their pre-existing martial problems become exacerbated, once they have young children to care for. This can leave people in a quandary, do we separate to become happy or do we stay together to prevent the long-term consequences that parental divorce can have on children.
One study conducted over a 30 year period by Slominski et al. (2011), found that the mental health of the mother when her child is only 30 months old (2.5 years old) may have consequences for her child’s romantic relationship outcomes decades later. Their children were more likely to be in less secure romantic relationships as adults, and were more likely to be anxious and avoidant in their intimate relationships. Furthermore, when a mother has had mental health problems during infancy, this study and other long-term studies (e.g. Beardslee et al., 1998) find that her children can be at a greater risk of developing mental health problems during adolescence. And further still, findings from this Slominski et al. study suggest that the mental health of a person in adolescence has implications for his or her romantic relationships up to several decades later, too. Children with more mental health problems at 13 and 18 years were less likely to be married or in a committed dating relationship at 30 years, and adolescents with more mental health problems at 13 and 18 years displayed more anxious and avoidant representations of romantic relationships at 30 years.
The currents study also found that families in which mothers had mental health problems early on, had higher levels of conflict according to reports by both the offspring and the mothers during the child’s adolescent years. Plus, children from families with higher levels of conflict grew up to endorse more anxious and avoidant representations of romantic relationships at age 30.
Therefore, research suggests that:
addressing the mental health of mothers when their offspring are still in infancy could be important for the child’s later mental health and romantic relationship trajectories;
addressing the mental health of adolescents themselves could also be important for their later romantic relationship outcomes during adulthood;
parents having marital issues that give rise to lots of conflict at home, may also better serve their children’s future by learning how to manage marital conflict in a healthy way.
The good news is, there are many people who still go on to have good mental health and successful, satisfactory, healthy relationships in adulthood, even when they’ve identified mental health issues in their past or their parents’ past or parental divorce. This is because we are in control of the habits we create and the habits we break.
It’s so important to remember that you are not doomed by your upbringing, or your personal past, so long as you are aware of how it may be shaping your attitudes and habits now…and then do something positive with that awareness. It’s not what happens or happened to us that matters now so much as what we do with it.
Start by taking simple steps towards happiness and mental health
Take steps to resolve any mental health issues you or your child may be experiencing. We are not meant to live with poor mental health, it is a sign that something needs addressing. If you do not feel ready to talk to someone, begin with simple self-nurturing practises. For example:
take guilt-free time-out from chores (and people if need be, including the children), time for you to just spend enjoying as you wish;
pamper yourself with a hot soak in the bath or a spa day;
immerse yourself in nature in your back garden or a local park;
spend time with loved ones, (even when you don’t quite feel like it, you may later be so glad you did);
go for a brisk walk or do some other cardio that gets your heart rate up.
There are loads more research-backed self-care, emotion-regulation, and happiness-boosing tips in Resilient Me and Anxiety Free, and the aforementioned tips are explained in detail with research. You may be surprised at just how powerful simple acts can be in lifting you up little by little and then keeping you buoyant as you gain resilience and well-being. Ultimately, though, you have to address what’s making you depressed or anxious or worse. Do this on your own, with a loved one, or with a professional, but please just do it; you deserve to be happy and healthy, and your family and friends want and need you to be happy and healthy.
Remember, what you think and do now will shape your future more than purely what has happened in your past.
Beardslee, W. R., Versage, E. M., & Gladstone, T. R. G. (1998). Children of affectively ill parents: A review of the past 10 years. Journal of the American Academy of Child. Adolescent Psychiatry, 37, 1134–1141.
Slominski, L. , Sameroff, A. , Rosenblum, K. and Kasser, T. (2011), Longitudinal Pathways between Maternal Mental Health in Infancy and Offspring Romantic Relationships in Adulthood: A 30‐year Prospective Study. Social Development, 20: 762-782.
Watch this BBC video (below) to learn more from myself and researcher Jan Ewing about ‘How to fix your relationship – and when to stop trying’. Jan Ewing was one of the researchers behind the research I cover in the blog article named: ‘The 10 Questions Every Couple Should Ask’.
In their research paper looking at the costs and coping strategies of romantic break-ups, Perilous & Buss (2008) highlight a number of interesting points about men and women’s experiences and behaviours after a relationship break-up, whether they are the ‘Rejector’ (the person doing the rejecting) or the ‘Rejectee’ (the person experiencing the rejection).
As some of their comments remind me of experiences my coaching clients have had, I have decided to share a few of their comments with my own thoughts added, in the hope that this may help those who have experienced any of the following. Perhaps you’ll feel relieved that you are not alone or that your suspicions/perceptions were true after all and hopefully you’ll feel better about your own past or present experiences and better able to move forward towards a fulfilling future and lasting love. Here are the excerpts with comments from after each.
‘Several studies have documented sex differences in the costs experienced after breakup. Women typically report experiencing more benefits after the breakup and men report poorer adjustment…other studies find that men and women experience breakups quite similarly…’
It’s important to just focus on your journey rather than have thoughts like, ‘He/She seems to have gotten over me really quickly; did I mean that little to them?’ The reality is, they may have moved on more quickly for a whole host of reasons. How fast you move on from the romantic break-up depends on lots of factors, from how much you ruminate over them and the break-up itself, to how much you mentally bully yourself with self-critical thoughts, to how much you focus on a rose-tinted version of what you had with them, to how much you focus on your future and finding a relationship you deserve, to how you look after yourself, and how much you support you seek from family and friends. What you think and do post break-up will influence how quickly you can get over them and how quickly you find the right person for you.
‘Men may also attempt to maintain sexual access to a woman and avoid breakup using a strategy that exploits her evolved preference for long-term mating. Because women value emotional commitment so highly in their mates, men may deploy a counter-strategy to exploit this desire: he may attempt to maintain sexual access to a woman by signaling an increase in his emotional investment to her. In the modern world, men can accomplish this by suggesting they become exclusive to one another, cohabit, obtain a mutual pet, get married, or have children. Thus, we predicted that…men would be more likely than women to report success in preventing a breakup through suggestions of increasing their level of commitment to their partner.’
As people view and engage in different commitments in different ways and for different reasons, rather than assume someone wanting to have a baby with you means they want to spend their life with you or that cohabiting is their way of saying I want to marry you at some point, check what their motivation is. Ask questions, listen to what they say, listen to what they don’t say that you would expect to hear if their goal was the same as yours, e.g. eventually getting married, and same goes for body language. At least that way you get a better idea of what their long-term intentions are rather than assuming they are the same as yours. Don’t waste years of your life because you made assumptions or were too afraid to hear the truth.
‘Even before the breakup, a Rejector may begin enacting preemptive strategies… Infidelity, for example, can be a tactic…for ending the relationship itself.’
If someone is showing you they are not committed, and telling you they don’t want to commit, believe them. Be honest with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Own your worth. You deserve to be with someone who wholeheartedly wants to be with you.
‘If the Rejector truly wants to end the relationship, but still finds the Rejectee sexually desirable, the Rejector may attempt to obtain additional sexual access even after the breakup. Following this logic, we predicted that…female Rejectees would be more likely to report that their partner asked for sexual access to them after the breakup.’ If it’s over, stop letting them have their cake and eat it. If they truly want to get back together with you, their first instincts should be to communicate about the issues that need resolving, not to have access to sexual intimacy first. If they do say things to make you feel like they want to get back with you, make sure what they do say feels (verbally) and looks (non-verbally) genuine.
‘Rejectees often experience a desire to maintain the relationship, whereas the Rejectors may be able to afford to reject their partner on the assumption that they can obtain a better mate (or alternatively are better off without the existing mate).’
If they’re repeatedly showing significantly less interest in you than you are in them, cut the cord. You are only going to put yourself through extended agony by trying to keep something that is already dead, alive. If they truly want you, they’ll know where to find you. You should focus on getting yourself back to your happy, confident resilient self.
‘Sadness also can prompt the individual to avoid similar situations in the future by bringing the features of the failure into the forefront for encoding and analysis…’
As I say in Resilient Me: ‘Your emotions are your mental health feedback system, similar to the body’s physical health and survival feedback systems…We use negative emotions to know that ‘something doesn’t feel good’ and needs addressing, and positive emotions to know that ‘things feel good’ and can or should continue.’ Use all emotions as a feedback loop.
‘Rejectors too face specific costs based on their role in the breakup. Because Rejectors are responsible for ending the relationship, they may experience negative feedback from their peer network if they are perceived as cruel. Rejectors may be characterized as the villains and Rejectees as the victims. Suffering reputational damage such as appearing heartless or unsympathetic can diminish one’s ability to obtain future long-term mates…’
If someone agrees to go to relationship coaching or relationship counselling with you, again ask questions to check what their true motivation is. Some people will agree to go for relationship coaching or relationship counselling just to look good to family and friends and others when they don’t actually have any intention of saving the relationship and this false hope can make the turmoil worse for you, waste more of your life and knock your self-esteem and optimism further. A good coach or counsellor should be able to detect this quickly but if you can detect this first, the better for you. You can still seek coaching or counselling on your own to help yourself through the break-up if you want to.
Don’t let people mess you around. Own your worth. Set goals for your future. Put the past to rest. And take simple steps in the present to achieve your relationship goals.
Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2008). Breaking up Romantic Relationships: Costs Experienced and Coping Strategies Deployed. Evolutionary Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1177/147470490800600119
Ashley Banjo’s new Channel 4 show, Flirty Dancing, instantly piqued my attention because (a) I help people resolve dating and relationship challenges and (b) I wrote five pages on dancing research in my recently published book, Anxiety Free, and (c) I personally love to dance and do so recreationally, often.
Dancing can be both intimate and therapeutic; below I share an excerpt from Anxiety Free looking at the mental health and well-being effects of dancing:
‘Dancing is an important part of some cultures and even forms part of their good health and well-being strategy. For example, in African culture dance can be used as a form of individual healing and community healing when someone is going through psychological trauma. Also, some African societies tend to emphasise the social causes and impact of one person’s illness in terms of the individual’s relationship to the community and the spiritual world.54 It’s a wonderfully holistic view, one that encompasses society and quite rightly acknowledges the effect an individual has on society and vice versa.
‘In other cultures, dance is used for celebration or entertainment. For many, however, dance is something that is either performed professionally or not at all. Whether performed recreationally or professionally, dance is a fantastic way for people to regulate their emotions and maintain resilience for brain, body and mental health. Dancing is therapeutic. In a study of 474 non-professional adult dancers, participants completed a survey about their perceptions of the well-being effects they experience as a result of dancing recreationally.55 Numerous beneficial effects on their emotional, physical, social and spiritual well-being were mentioned, including benefiting their self-esteem and their ability to cope with stress and challenges, helping them to stay in physical shape, reducing pain and improving posture. Other benefits that really excite me are these I want to share with you.
‘People reported that dancing:
◊ makes them feel happy/elated/pleased/euphoric;
◊ helps them to feel released/relaxed/balanced;
◊ makes them feel energetic/alert/strong;
◊ helps them to express emotions;
◊ reduces negative feelings;
◊ help them to feel positive;
◊ improves their self-confidence;
◊ helps them to be in harmony with themselves;
◊ makes them more receptive/highly productive/focused;
◊ gives them a feeling of togetherness/affiliation;
◊ helps them to relax/rest the mind;
◊ helps them to forget worries/problems/negative thoughts;
◊ helps them to get rid of everyday hassles/get away from the everyday;
◊ helps them to nourish the soul.
‘What incredible benefits for emotion regulation and mental well-being in general! Whether you dance socially when out, in a dance studio at a fitness class, professionally on a stage or at home in the privacy of your bedroom, the benefits of dancing can again be tested by using your body as a device for measuring tension or anxiety, relaxation or inner calm. There is certainly something incredible that happens when you allow your mind to focus on the music and the movement and when you allow yourself to express and/or release emotion. Sometimes it is as though you have shaken or even flung those emotions from your body. It’s interesting how the shaking of anxiety from your body can be all you need sometimes to shake it from your mind; for example, when we’re having relentless negative thoughts, the distraction and movement that the music provides helps us to dispel the anxiety, even if just for a while.
‘Plus, like all physical exercise, because dancing creates movement in your body and puts your focus on the music and the movement rather than your problems, it can be fantastically transformative when you feel stuck in your mind, stuck in life and are searching for solutions to problems. When you read the chapter on problem-solving (p.213) you’ll notice two very specific research-based reasons why dancing can help you to gain answers and epiphanies. You may well find yourself stopping every so often to jot down answers and solutions that have ‘magically’ revealed themselves to you mid-dance, answers and solutions that will help you to solve and resolve your current anxiety completely (Calm Pillars 1 and 2).
‘Dancing also helps the brain to reap benefits similar to those we reap from physical exercise, such as a release of pain-reducing endorphins which make us feel happier, memory improvement and strengthened neuronal connections in the brain, which help us to learn and retain skills, as well as exercising several brain regions at once.56 Included are the motor cortex (involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movement), the somatosensory cortex (responsible for motor control and plays a role in eye-hand coordination), the basal ganglia (work with brain regions to smoothly coordinate movement), and the cerebellum (coordinates and regulates fine and complex body movements). So dance is good for mental health and mental agility, skills you want to retain for overcoming anxiety throughout your life and for general health and happiness; and remember, you have a ‘use it or lose it brain’ so dancing is a way to ensure you retain good physical and mental health throughout your life.
‘Read the rest of this section on dancing in Anxiety Free to hear more fascinating research on the powerful health, well-being effects of the anxiety-soothing and anxiety-solving effects of dancing, even if you just dance at home in the privacy of your bedroom.’
Read the rest of this section on dancing in Anxiety Free to hear more fascinating research on the powerful health and well-being effects of the anxiety-soothing and anxiety-solving effects of dancing, whether you dance in a dance class, or just in the privacy of your bedroom.
Social media can be challenging and research highlights the effects it is having on our mental health and well-being and our relationships. In this video I share 11 tips for using social media in a healthier way using scientific research and professional experience as a coach. Watch the short video here, subscribe to my YouTube channel here and please share the video if you think it is helpful:
11 Tips For Using Social Media In A Healthier Way - YouTube
When you realise you’re suffering from a bout of anxiety it can take you completely by surprise. On the other hand, when you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder, the surprise element has gone but life has now become an uncomfortable existence day-to-day. Either way, one of the worst things about any form of anxiety is that it can feel very much out of your control, like the nausea that won’t dissipate, the rapid heart rate that won’t calm down or the feeling of panic that just won’t leave for reasons unknown.
In my new book, Anxiety Free, I share the eight threat types that trigger anxiety and show you exactly how to resolve anxiety, and one of those eight threat types is repetitive negating thinking e.g. self-criticism, worry and rumination. As this is such a major cause of anxiety and so common for so many of us, I’m going to share five helpful thinking strategies that you can use to help soothe your anxiety or even resolve it completely if your anxiety is purely stemming from repetitive negative thinking.
Two forms of repetitive negative thinking that are frequently researched are worry and rumination. Both types of negative thinking have been repeatedly linked to anxiety and depression. When looking at a sample of 2,143 adults clinically diagnosed with either anxiety disorder or a mood disorder such as major depressive disorder, or a combination, researchers found that rumination was most strongly associated with major depressive disorder whilst worry was most strongly associated with anxiety disorder. However, both worry and rumination are found in both disorders, and anxiety and depression often develop in the same person. So, repetitive negative thinking is something your mental health requires you to steer well away from and because what we repeatedly do becomes a habit (as it becomes wired into the brain), the simplest way to approach this is to focus on small thinking changes and repeat them consistently. Let’s look at some of those small thinking changes right now. Read the 5 helpful thinking strategies to quell your anxiety that I shared with Cosmopolitan magazine, here.
It’s that time of year when it seems everyone is talking about goals and resolutions and whilst some of it can be inspiring, some of it can be down right deflating. When you’re not feeling particularly optimistic about what lies ahead, what with economic concerns and political concerns and more, this can be a time when you perhaps feel anxious and lacking in resilience. For this reason, I want to remind you that this is your life, and whether you want to set some big goals or seemingly some small goals, setting any goals, however small, can be really impactful and here’s why.
Firstly, small changes and achievements result in big changes and achievements. For example, you may have decide to introduce some brisk walking to your week and find that, over time, a simple walk a few times a week ends up boosting your mental health, slimming you down, tones your body, boosts your self-esteem, makes you work harder in your job or career, and inspires you to set more achievable goals.
Secondly, as Maxwell Maltz said, ‘Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward.’ There is something about stagnation that derails our inner peace and inner strength, whilst progress, however small, empowers us, helps us to feel calm and safe, as well as confident, happy and optimistic.
In Resilient Me I cover research into goal setting, here is a small excerpt about ‘How Goals Affect our Performance and Achievement’ to help you understand why goal-setting helps us to achieve what we want so that you can be inspired to set some goals for yourself, however big or small…
‘If you have never really been convinced of the power of goal-setting, this is especially for you. In a review of empirical goal-setting research spanning thirty-five years, researchers summarised four main mechanisms through which goals affect us.
‘First, goals direct our mental attention and physical behaviours towards activities that will help us to achieve them and away from activities that are irrelevant to achieving them. So, setting a specific goal stops us wasting our time, energy and focus on other pursuits and helps us to more quickly achieve our goals. This is likely to explain why affirmations help: because they can keep us focused on and moving towards the affirmed statement, or goal. This may also explain one way in which reviewing our goals frequently, whether as written goal statements or images depicting the goals, helps us to achieve those very goals.
‘Second, goals that stretch us lead to more effort than goals that don’t. Perhaps this is because we know that a higher goal will require more effort than lower goals. Perhaps this is also because higher goals make us feel more excited than goals that are easy to reach, possibly because we attach our own worth and confidence to the obtainment of the goal, i.e. the bigger the goal, the prouder you’ll be of yourself for achieving it and the more confidence you’ll have.
‘Third, goals affect our persistence. When given the choice, we will work longer on a difficult task than on an easy task. We will also work faster when we have tight deadlines than when we have loose deadlines. This again demonstrates that goals influence our focus and behaviour.
‘Fourth, goals affect our behaviour indirectly. Goals propel us to discover information and strategies that will help us to achieve our objectives.
‘I always say to my clients that when we keep a specific goal at the forefront of our mind via affirmations and goal reminders (e.g. vision boards, goal statements or visualisation – see page 168) our brain is reminded to: (a) spot, (b) grasp and (c) create opportunities to make those goals a reality. It’s also why it is so important to always focus your mind on what you do want, not on what you don’t want. As I often say, whatever we focus our mind on, we consciously and subconsciously work towards. A large body of research supports this and helps explain why things like affirmations, vision boards and written descriptions help move us towards our goals. These constant reminders of our goals influence our thoughts, behaviours and motivation – as do goals themselves – both directly and indirectly.’
So, set yourself some goals. A great way to define them is by asking yourself, (a) ’What specifically do I want to achieve?’ and (b) ‘When or when by? Split your goals into categories such as career, family and friends, and me, and set some realistic goals.
Arguing a lot? Think your conflict style doesn’t matter much beyond the point being argued about? Think again. Research finds that of all the conflict styles that middle- and older-aged married couples indulge, anger leads to a risk of developing cardiovascular health symptoms later in life, and the risk is much more significant for husbands than wives. Furthermore, husbands who stonewalled their spouses also had a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal symptoms in years to come.
The research was conducted over a 20 year period using 15 minute snapshots of marital conflict interactions and although wives showed some effects, the results were significant for husbands’ conflict styles and later health implications. Importantly, such cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health symptoms were not present at the start of the research and only appeared after such conflict styles had been used over a period of many years. What’s really interesting, also, is that such health issues weren’t related to other conflict-related emotions such as fear or sadness and their resulting emotional-behaviours which is very telling. In other words, specific negative emotions and behaviours create specific effects on physical health rather than us merely understanding that negative emotions result in ill-health and a shortened life span which we know they can.
Cardiovascular symptoms were measured using 11 items from the Cornell Medical Index (CMI), e.g. pains in the heart or chest, a high blood pressure diagnosis, and a diagnosis of heart problems. The researchers report removing one item from the original CMI scale that assessed low blood pressure because they were primarily interested in high-activation cardiovascular symptoms.
Musculoskeletal symptoms were measured using 5 items from the CMI, e.g. severe pains in the arms or legs, muscles and joints constantly feeling stiff, and back pain. The researchers state they removed two items from the original CMI scale that assessed inflammation-related musculoskeletal symptoms because they were primarily interested in tension-related musculoskeletal symptoms.
As awareness followed by proactivity is necessary for preventing similar future health issues in you or your spouse, to help you identify the emotions and behaviours in your marital conflicts, here are some of the noticeable features the present study focused on:
(a) Anger behaviour – e.g. frustration, irritation/annoyance, commands, constrained anger, voice lowered or raised beyond limits of normal tone, lowered eyebrows, lips pressed together, tight jaw.
(b) Stonewalling behaviour – e.g. “away” behaviour, little or no eye contact, face appears stiff and frozen, clenched jaw, rigid neck muscles, no verbal or nonverbal backchannels (such as ‘uh-huh’, ‘mm-hm’ or head nods to demonstrate one is listening to or understanding what is said).
(c) Fear behaviour – e.g. frequent eye movements, excessive fidgeting or shifting, speech disturbances/incoherence, voice tone shifting between lower and higher pitch, nervous laughter.
The sample used in the present study consisted of middle-aged people aged 40-50 years and older people aged 60-70 years. Therefore, whilst we may think that such findings are not relevant to us if we are in our 20s or 30s, it is important to recognise that such health implications may actually be the same for younger adults though not studied yet, and if not, in a handful of years we, too, will be in that same age range. Besides, there is plenty of research into the harmful health effects of (i) negative thoughts, (ii) not regulating your emotions with intention, and (iii) risky behaviours that you may indulge as a result, such as excessive use of alcohol and drugs, to motivate you to do something about your unhealthy conflict and stress management style, now.
Don’t let your emotions control you. You might for a while, you may find it difficult to control them for a while, but then you have to take control of your emotions so that they don’t impact your health, your relationships, and your lifespan.
Haase, C.M., Holley, S.R., Bloch, L., Verstaen, A., & Levenson, R.W. 2016. Interpersonal emotional behaviors and physical health: A 20-year longitudinal study of long-term married couples. Emotion, 16(7):965-77.
Life. Sometimes it feels light, bouncy and fun, other times it can feel heavy, fatiguing and overwhelming. There can be so many reasons for the latter, from the overloading of information and duties onto ourselves, to the hyperconnected way in which we now live with our digital lives, to pressures from the outside world whether imagined or real, to pressures we put upon ourselves, to suddenly being faced with life changes, to interpersonal conflict.
We want to survive and we want to thrive, and to do both there are powerful research-backed resilience and well-being strategies we can rely on. One such strategy for resilience, well-being and good mental health is getting around people, people that help you to feel positive emotions. People you have positive relationships with can help lift you out of heavy times. The more weighed down you feel, the heartier the dose of ‘people power’ you’ll need, and the longer you’ll need to maintain an ongoing dose until you feel light, bouncy, fun and free again. We’re starting to talk more about mental health and well-being and in that arena there are a number of effective remedies that really stand out to me, all of which I cover with research in my new book Anxiety Free, things like physical exercise (cardio, strength training and yoga), nature, mindfulness, and positive relationships. Positive relationships, however, is the one that we don’t hear quite so much about just yet, but – as you can probably imagine – I added a chapter dedicated to relationships in both Resilient Me and Anxiety Free because relationships can be a source of stress, anxiety, resilience and calm.
From a bird’s-eye view, positive relationships help us to live longer, happier and healthier (Waldinger, 2015). On a day-to-day level, people you have positive relationships with, can:
help buffer you from pain,
help give you a new perspective on challenges,
help you to raise your self-image from falsely negative to realistically positive,
help you to regain self-compassion when you’re being overly critical towards yourself,
help you to believe in yourself,
help you to work out and implement solutions,
help you to replenish your resilience when you have obstacles to confront,
help you to feel connected, and thus safer, when you feel lonely,
and show you how you add to their life, too.
Positive relationships are healing and exhilarating. So, use positive relationships for a quick pick-up me up resilience boost, and use positive relationships when you need to calm your brain down and regain your optimism.
3 Well-Being Tips:
Socialising with family and friends is an effective happiness-building technique (Quoidbach et al., 2015) so ask your friends if they want to meet up, whatever day of the week it is. Though you may not typically socialise wth friends on a Monday evening, for example, it can provide a great start to your week, much like attending a motivational seminar, or a business networking meeting. And it doesn’t need to be glamorous or exciting to the world, just the two of you – connecting, soothing and elevating each other.
If your family and friends are busy, meet with other humans. Whether you seek out a one-off class (cookery, pottery, dance) or attend a meet-up group as a one-off, or continue to attend frequently, getting around other humans can be very beneficial. Consider this: loneliness and isolation, even just subjective feelings of loneliness and isolation, can shorten your lifespan as much as obesity can (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015).
We gain happiness and resilience from giving (Aknin et al. 2015; Alessi, 2016). Even when we’re facing great hardships ourselves, giving to others can help us to maintain resilience, so when you feel knocked sideways or you feel sore, be sure to factor in some time where you help others as this can boost your own mental well-being and inner strength.
Spending time around loving, or even just pleasant, people is a powerful and effective mental health and happiness boost. When you need uplifting and re-energising, spend time in the company of the good people in your life or out there in the world, and know that you may require multiple doses until you feel light and free enough to continue on the next leg of your journey (life).
Aknin, L. B., Broesch, T., Hamlin, J. K. and Van de Vondervoort, J. W. (2015). ‘Prosocial Behavior Leads to Happiness in a Small-Scale Rural Society’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(4): 788–95.
Alessi, E. J. (2016). ‘Resilience in sexual and gender minority forced migrants: A qualitative exploration’. Traumatology, 22(3): 203–13.
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T. and Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2):227–37.
Quoidbach, J., Gross, J. J. and Mikolajczak, M. (2015). ‘Positive Interventions: An Emotion Regulation Perspective’. Psychological Bulletin, 141(3): 655–93.
Waldinger, R. (2015). ‘What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness’, USA: TED Conferences.
Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness/transcript?language=en