The Link Between Positive Mental Health & Happy Relationships

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Your mental health and relationships are more connected than you might think.

Often, when people think about mental health, they tend to focus solely on mental illnesses.

Mental health does, of course, include anxiety, depression, and other diagnoses but it encompasses much more than that.

Positive factors, such as resiliency, curiosity, self-worth, and strong supportive relationships are also part of your mental health. They can help you cope with adversity and mental illness.

In the same way that you need to attend to your physical health through proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep, your mental health also requires well-rounded attention.

When you nurture your mental health for the long term, you're better able to handle the ups and downs of life, recover from setbacks and changes in your life more quickly, sleep better, heal quicker, and live longer.

Without strong positive mental health, you can struggle to be healthy and happy, which affects your relationships.

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So, what is the connection between mental health and relationships?

Research shows that being happily married or in a stable relationship impacts positively on mental health. High marital quality is associated with lower stress and less depression.

Some studies have found that negative social interactions and relationships, especially with partners or spouses, increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, while positive interactions reduce the risk of these issues.

Some degree of conflict is inevitable in romantic relationships.

But, for many couples, conflict extends beyond day-to-day disagreements into pervasive patterns and repeated cycles. This then leaves both partners in a perpetual state of distress or disconnection.

Disconnection is not good for your mental health.

Neurobiologists found that humans are wired for connection. You're not built to be alone, isolated, or lonely. You want to be seen, acknowledged, and bonded to another human.

When you experience a close, intimate, and healthy relationship with another, you experience many positive benefits, including:

You feel alive.

You have a purpose.

Your life has meaning.

You prioritize positive and healthy behaviors.

You experience less stress.

You're able to process your emotions.

You have increased energy.

You're able to release tension.

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All of these lead to positive mental health effects, less disease, and a longer life.

So, what elements of a healthy relationship are worth striving for?

Most couples who seek relationship counseling state that they want to work on their communication.

Typically, their dynamic has become one of mutual triggering where they find themselves having the same argument again and again.

Sometimes, they are so hurt and exhausted that they have stopped bringing things up and are locked behind walls of silence and disconnection.

In my experience, it is crucial that couples focus on a practice of mutual respect.

Respect is foundational for each person to feel safe and loved.

Here are some things to incorporate into your relationship to ease tension and deepen connection:

Deep listening in order to understand.

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Removal of negative criticism and contempt.

Taking responsibility rather than being defensive.

Validating the other’s point of view.

Expressing empathy for the other’s feelings.

Supportive words and gestures.

Honoring needs and boundaries.

Acceptance of differences.

Affectionate touch.

Eye gaze.

Humor/Laughter.

In order to maximize your mental health, good relationships are key.

And, fortunately, you have options to improve your connection and build the relationship you need, want, and deserve.

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Mary Kay Cocharo is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Mary Kay Cocharo's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.