Social connections, friendships and relationships with others help shape who we are and how we behave.
They are also one of the most significant influences on health and wellbeing. Good social support may offer greater protection from chronic disease and illness like cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety. Sometimes it is hard to know if your relationship is healthy or when to let go of relationships, but talking to someone you trust or a health professional is important to both your physical and emotional wellbeing if you are worried.
Research shows loneliness and social isolation negatively affect the health of patients with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, liver disease, breast cancer and stroke. People who are divorced, widowed or single are often found to be more depressed than those who are in supportive relationships. The support of social networks may offer greater protection from chronic disease and illness.
Apart from the effects of your own mood, the emotions of the people around you also impact on your health and wellbeing. The 'cluster effect' means your mood is influenced by the mood of your social network, so if your friends are happy, you are more likely to be happy too. If your partner is depressed for a long period of time, you are more likely to develop depression too.
If you find yourself in a social network that is causing you distress or you find yourself thinking more negatively around some people, it may be time to think about connecting with people who are more positive and who share the same values as you. Often you stay in the same relationships because you think you should (for whatever reason) but if you think about the person or the group and ask yourself ‘Is this really good for me?’, ‘Can I give and take in this relationship or in the group? Is it a positive, authentic experience most of the time?’ you may realise it is not, and it is time to move on. Moving on means letting go and leaving a gap and then having to deal with the anxiety this may cause. Lots of relationships have a beginning, a middle and an end and so often you get stuck at the ending because it is too hard.
Talking to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend or a professional, can help.
Most people would choose and love to belong to a happy supportive family. However, you cannot choose your parents or the family to whom you marry or commit. If you are experiencing problems with your family, your awareness of the situation is the first step in managing your life in a healthier and more responsible way. It often takes time to act or change your behaviour in a positive way.
Being connected is important to your health, so if you feel yourself drifting into a more isolated day-to-day existence, it is worthwhile getting back out there.