The Health Benefits of Close Core Relationships

 
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Over the next several posts I am diving deeper into eight essential areas of wellness to live a long, healthy, happy life of vitality. The first area of wellness that we explored and strategized to improve was creating a strong social support. The second area of wellness that we will dive into is close core relationships.

Having strong, deep and unconditionally loving relationships is an essential area of wellness. This area of wellness is consistently a marker for those who live a long, healthy, happy life. Healthy core relationships indicate a healthy inner-being and healthy life. Close core relationships exist with the people you trust and that you are deeply connected. In essence, these are your most valued relationships. These core relationships could be your partner, anyone in your immediate or extended family, your best friend(s), your business partner…really whoever you are closest to on a deep, genuine level.

These core relationships are often just a handful of people. These are people who love and care for you no matter what. These are reciprocal relationships, meaning there is a flow of give and receive and feel balanced and healthy. These are the people you trust, love and know that you could call them at any time of day or night, and they’d be right there for you. A relationship like this might be tough to come by. Relationships on this level require the ability to be authentic, to be yourself, to be vulnerable and to be fully accepting of exactly who they are and you are fully accepted for exactly who you are.

If you feel as though you are seeking just this type of closeness but struggle to be authentic, to be seen, and to be yourself, you might benefit from exploring the challenges you experience to show up as your authentic self. If you feel as though you once had this level of closeness with some people, however those relationships have drifted or become less reliable or close, there is hope to create that closeness once again, if indeed that person is a healthy person to have within your life. 

Relationships are difficult to maintain and require effort, time and consistent communication in order to keep them within a healthy and authentic place. There is absolutely no shame in seeking a therapist or other support if you feel your closest core relationships need some TLC. It is possible to heal these relationships without external support as well, just both parties need to be on board and ready to put in the work!  

Some ways you can strengthen your current core relationships is to take time to talk, well—really, to take time to listen. Listening is a skill and an art form and is one of the most wonderful gifts you can offer someone you care about. When you truly hear someone you care about you are not formulating what to say next, you are not defensive, you are trying to hear and be open in a loving way. Becoming a compassionate listener rather than a problem solver for those you are close with can help bring healing and deeper understanding as well.

Having dedicated time to enjoy one another is another important part of maintaining a close core relationship. When your time spent together is always about problem solving, discussions of practical matters and daily tasks, this can put a drain on your closeness. Find time to spend time doing something that brings you both joy or maybe just nothing in particular. The intention, no matter the nature of the relationship, is to provide a opportunity to create closeness and joy within your relationship.

Honesty is a component of creating closeness and authenticity in your core relationships. This requires vulnerability, a willingness to disrupt the peace at times in exchange for a more secure connection. You have to make it safe for those you care about to approach you, and you need to have safe people to approach with your concerns. This might even be a simple practice of being honest with mundane things as well as in deeply important areas such as being honest and open about your feelings.

Consider one existing relationship you are already have, that may be experienced as going pretty well overall. Consider someone you do feel some level of closeness, but you’d like to improve and strengthen. (You don’t want to start with a relationship that needs a ton of repair.) First, ask yourself can you accept this person for exactly who they are, without any condition? (Now ask yourself this again!) Do you feel that they can offer you this same level of acceptance in return? If so, how can approach this person in a way to let them know you’d like to strengthen and build upon the foundation of your relationship? As you reach out, be vulnerable, be real and share yourself in a way that offers the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way, knowing that relationship building is a process, a marathon, not a sprint!

If this person is amenable to working and growing and strengthening the relationship, practice these three areas to work to continue to grow, connect and improve your connection. Start with listening to them, then find time to have fun together and enjoy this time spent. Then assure yourself that you are being fully and completely authentic within the relationship, being open and honest. Notice the impact as you grow and expand within your close core relationships.

The Health Benefits of a Strong Social Support

 
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As promised in my last post, I will be detailing the eight wellness essentials outlined in that post one by one. The first area of wellness to live a life of vitality is all about having a strong social support including friends, family and community groups. Spending time with friends and enjoying the company of others provides a tremendous amount of benefit to our lives.

From the wellness perspective, having a strong social support creates the best circumstances to live a long, healthy and happy life. When you share the company of friends, you might share a meal, a shopping venture, a walk, an experience or even a good cry. The benefit to your health comes in the process of sharing, of feeling connected, supported, heard and cared for. Having a support system where you can be your authentic self allows you to feel safe, valuable and secure.

By nature, we are social creatures. We have a need to create a sense of safety in our lives, and a solid social support offers just that. When you find your tribe, the people who unconditionally love and accept you, you feel supported, cared for and you can give yourself permission to be you. This can be a challenge to find as so many of us show up to life with a lot of social anxiety. This anxiety will cause you to worry about what people think about you, you may fear that you will be judged and this can cause you to feel as though you have to be *perfect* in order for people to want to be around you.

When you are ready to reconcile your perfectionism, release your anxiety and just be you. Inevitably, your social life will open up in a positive way. When this occurs you no longer attempt to hide behind perfectionism or people pleasing and you can be your true self. When you allow yourself to relax and become more confident in social circumstances, you become a better and better version of yourself through your relationships. In our current culture more and more people are connecting through social media outlets and yet more and more people are expressing feelings of isolation and loneliness. We all long for genuine, nonjudgmental connection.

If you find that you are feeling more isolated and lonely when it comes to a social network, know that there is always an opportunity to grow and expand into a social support that will be beneficial for you. If social anxiety is crippling for you, it might be helpful to seek additional support to work through your fears and automatic responses when it comes to social situations so that you can create more opportunities to expand both your social support and to feel more confident and less anxious. If you do not feel that you have overwhelming social anxiety but have become isolated for other reasons, there are many things you can do today to begin to grow your social support.

Having a strong social support is a wellness essential, and what that looks like, just like any wellness journey is absolutely personal to you. For one person it may feel best to have a small, tight group of friends where others may prefer to have a variety of friends across many social experiences. There is no wrong way to grow in your social support! If you feel as though you have a strong social support and feel really good about the relationships you currently have, then take some time to reach out to those people and let them know how important and meaningful their relationship is to you. If you feel as though you’d like to grow socially and strengthen your current or potential social connections, I put together the following list to help you think about how to expand your social outlet in a way that feels nurturing and healthy for you.

Try one or more of the following to grow your social support today:
-Take an in-person class on a topic that interests you
-Host a dinner party for an organization you are already a part of
-Join a book club
-Join a Meetup group
-Go to an event that sounds interesting to you and talk to one person you don’t know
-Go to a community meeting/religious service/open house event… and talk to one person you don’t know
-If you have kids, have a play date for your kids whose parents you’d like to get to know better
-Call an old friend that you haven’t talked to in a while and catch up
-Volunteer anywhere
-Participate in a committee at your work, kid’s school, in the community…
-Get your friends together for a potluck this weekend

From the list, what feels doable? What feels as though it would help you grow and strengthen your social support? When you try one, notice the impact of creating meaningful connections on how you feel about yourself.

5 Practices to Upgrade Your Self-Image

 
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If you are ready to ditch the negative internal talk and bring on a greater sense of confidence, well-being and elevate your view of yourself, I recommend you keep on reading. Whether you struggle with emotional eating or not, so many people struggle with a negative or unfavorable view of themselves. Do you do this: Do you hide your value, question your worth and feel less important than others? If you do, today is the day to take back ownership of you. Today is the day to reclaim your confidence, your self-compassion and step into your personal power. Are you ready?

The five following practices will allow you to upgrade your self-image. They will help you create a new, more favorable self-image. They will support a new way of being with, talking to and portraying yourself to both yourself—and to those around you. I love this quote by Marianne Williamson, she says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?” I love that quote because it offers such a powerful shift in our typical patterns of thinking. So, why do you shirk away from your light, your greatness, your true potential? Most likely because it is pretty scary to even imagine! Maybe because it is not so easy to maintain. Maybe because you’ve never been allowed to feel your greatness, however I imagine, deep down, you know that it’s there.

To be great, to show our light to the world and to step into our personal power is often not how we are taught to be. I just recently listened to a book that emphasized that is actually each of our moral and ethical duty to be our best, to live up to our potential and to share our gifts with the world. If you have something great to offer but don’t because of fear, that’s a disservice to the world. That feels very empowering, motivating and even liberating. 

So here are the five practices you can implement today to begin to elevate yourself, upgrade your self-image and step into your personal power. No matter what you do, who you are, or what fears may be holding you back, take time to integrate these practices and you will start your up-leveling process right away!

1.    Use the Affirmation: “In This Moment, I Have Enough, I am Enough.”

Affirmations are so incredibly valuable because they help to create a new way of speaking to yourself within your conscious mind. Affirmations invite a place to be kind, compassionate and loving towards yourself. This particular affirmation is valuable because it releases and shifts any feelings that you are lacking something. When you operate from a place of lack and scarcity mindset, you create an internal sense that you are not safe and secure. A lacking mentality implies that something needs to change before you can be enough or before you can share yourself and your gifts with others and with the world. This affirmation dispels that self-created myth. Even better, record yourself repeating this affirmation for 1-3 minutes and listen to it daily.

I encourage you to practice saying this affirmation at least three times daily for forty days in a row (you can keep going beyond 40 days, but commit to that at least to begin!) Offer yourself time to journal about how it feels when you say it to yourself and any shifts in your ability to accept it over time and your perceptions of being enough.

2.    Look in the Mirror and Smile at Yourself 3 Times a Day

Smiling is a simple and yet incredibly powerful facial gesture to share with yourself and with others. It can improve how you feel instantly. Try this practice of looking at yourself in the mirror, offering a kind, full-faced smile (don’t ½ ass it here!) and gaze into your own eyes in a kind and compassionate way for about 15-20 seconds.

Practice this three times daily for the next forty days and notice the impact. Again, use a journal to track how you feel when you do this practice. Sometimes it may feel awkward, other times it may be quite touching. No matter what you experience, track it in this way and notice the impact. 

3.    Tell Yourself, “I GOT THIS” with Each Struggle You Endure

I actually have “I Got This” come up as a reminder on my phone every day at 1 pm. Every single day, it brings me a sense of relief and makes me relax and smile. Because really, not matter what, I do. Life is good, life is hard, life is demanding, life is uncertain, life is all the things. Knowing that YOU know that “I GOT THIS” can be extremely reassuring. This awareness builds confidence and improves your self-image instantly. You shift from a space of stress to one of empowerment and the ability to say in that moment, “oh yeah I do!” With each struggle, remind yourself that you’ve experienced other struggles and so far you’ve survived them all. So with this one, no matter how large or small, you’ve totally got this!

4.    Reflect on Your Goals and Success Daily

If you’ve been reading here for a little while, then you know I’m a big fan of setting goals. Planning your action steps and reviewing your progress regularly is a form of self-accountability. I know for myself, if I plan it, it is WAY more likely to actually happen. If I don’t, there’s a good chance I will get busy with…pretty much nothing, at least nothing important. The next step is actually reflecting on your goals and the success you are creating through taking action towards your goals daily. When you do this, you are creating a sense of self-discipline by being accountable to your own daily check in. Begin this daily practice and notice the impact on your progress towards your goals. As you see yourself making progress and creating the change in your life that you desire you will experience an upgrade in your self-image.

5.    Practice Confidence

Confidence can be learned, practiced and developed over time. When you act in a way that reflects internal strength and confidence, it is inevitable that you will upgrade your self-image. When you stand up for yourself, even in a small, simple way that may not seem like much to someone else but feels like a big deal to you, you will elevate your own view of yourself. This naturally will elevate how others experience you as well. Begin this practice by noticing your posture. Stand up tall, relax your shoulders and breathe deeply and completely. This simple shift in posture can make a big shift in how you feel as well as how you are perceived by others. Body language makes a big impact. Once you change your posture, begin to practice the “putting yourself out there” confidence piece. Do you struggle with speaking up for what you want? Do this at least one time this week—no matter what! Do you struggle to speak up in your school or work setting in order to share your knowledge and expertise? Do this at least one time this week—no matter what! Do you struggle to pay attention to your own needs because you want everyone else to be happy all of the time? Spend time in self-reflection becoming familiar with your own personal likes and dislikes, wants and needs. Then, tell at least one person about one thing you discovered about yourself and let your needs be known. Afraid to share your creative gifts? Try singing, playing your instrument, showing your art work or written work to at least one person who you trust this week—no matter what! 

The most important element to building confidence and upgrading your self-image is to make it about you and your own view of yourself. Do these practices to express who you are. You are not doing them in an effort to gain anything in return from others, such as attention or reinforcement. Now you may receive those things, but that will only satisfy your pesky ego, and will not last (the ego is never satisfied). When you feel good inside because you created a spark of joy through believing in yourself, acting with confidence, smiling to yourself, repeating an affirmation or making progress towards your goals—that will be the lasting positive experience that you can continue grow with.

The last thing I’ll say is that upgrading your self-image is all about exiting your comfort zone and entering a place that may create your fears to take over. I’ll quote the great Elizabeth Gilbert to address these scary feelings: “Your fear is the most boring thing about you.” Today, commit to one or more of these five strategies to upgrade your self-image, and maybe, let it be the one that scares you the most. Feel the fear and do it anyway!