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Why it pays to prioritize interpersonal relationships.


Lying in each other's arms, confiding a secret, deciding to take the next subway instead. It's moments like these that fulfill one of the most important needs in our lives: The desire to start positive relationships with other people, and form bonds - the so-called affiliation need. It can drive us to the brink of despair in lonely moments. Who doesn't wallow, now and then, in the conviction that all other people are having the night of their lives tonight, while you're wasting away by yourself on the sofa? But in better moments, this need to belong can make us feel alive by our connection with other people.

Stable interpersonal relationships enrich our lives through three major benefits.

Benefit 1: Higher Stress Management

Interpersonal relationships work wonders for everyday stress, but they can be as powerful during tragic life events. Whether it's a breakup with a long-term partner, uncompromising superiors, or an illness in the family, the feeling of being well integrated into a network and feeling supported buffers stress. It helps with stress management, and increases resilience. With more resilience, we are better equipped to deal with crises, and return to a normal mental state more quickly. Interpersonal relationships are a resource that we cannot build up enough - because shared pain is half the pain, and shared joy is twice the joy!

Benefit 2: Better health

It's common knowledge that stress ruins your health. So if stable relationships buffer stress, does that also benefit health? In fact, having healthy relationships affects our lifespan: People who feel well-integrated are 50% more likely to live longer than those whose social relationships feel weak and vague. Although a lack of strong relationships has a similar effect on mortality as more well-known risk factors, such as smoking or obesity, it is rarely mentioned by physicians. It makes sense to talk not only about nutrition or smoking, but also about how social exclusion hurts - and how we can strengthen our health by building and maintaining social relationships, whether it's watching TV with your best friend or having a family picnic. All of these things promote our health.

Benefit 3: Greater well-being

It comes as no surprise that relationships impact on our psychological well-being. Research shows that relationships play a major role in how satisfied and happy we are. People who have warm, trusting contacts around them can share joys with others, and have somewhere to retreat to during hard times. Psychologist Carol Ryff understands the great weight social relationships carry. She categorises them, along with self-acceptance and meaning in life, as one of the six components of well-being.

Oases in everyday life

It feels good to know that the people we care about are thinking about us. We can also create these little oases in the everyday lives of others. Perhaps we can remind ourselves of this after a stressful day at work and make a date with the friend who always has the funniest stories to tell. Or cheer each other up with the colleague who is under just as much pressure as we are. Because whether it's love, family, friendship or work: a stable network can help us cope better with stress and live healthier, longer and happier lives.

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