Longitudinal psychological studies conducted over an 85-year period show that an individual’s relationships, (romantic, work, friendships) are the greatest indicator correlated with well-being, longevity, and happiness.
What generates a happy life?
In 1938, researchers from Harvard University posed this question. Records detailing the health of over 724 individuals were utilised, each participant was interviewed over a period of two years. The most consistent finding over the study found that positive healthy relationships impact an individual more than any other factors (including career achievement, money, exercise, or healthy diet)
Creating social fitness
Relationships impact individuals both mentally and physically. Conversations where an individual feels understood can calm a nervous system and promote Oxytocin. A relationship fracture can show a negative impact on sleep and mood. Factors impacted by relationships can increase or decrease physical health. Research shows just the perceived sense of feeling lonely decreases an individual’s immune system making them more susceptible to illness.
It is important to recognise that relationships are living systems and need to be tended to, rather than be left to take care of themselves. Therapy assists with analysing current relationships to clarify if these are healthy and balanced. Due to the significant impact of relationships to an individual’s health, examining an individual’s social diet is an important facet of self-improvement. You can receive help in improving social fitness from a fully licensed online CBT therapist by making contact here (in-person home treatment also available)
Assessing relationships in therapy will involve looking at the seven keystones of support (Safety and security, learning and growth, emotional closeness and confiding, identity affirmation and shared experience, romantic intimacy, help, fun and relaxation)
Early experiences with caregivers shape an individual’s expectations and beliefs about relationships. The causes of attachment styles are complex and involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Early experiences with caregivers are particularly important in shaping how an individual connects with others. If children receive consistent and responsive care from their caregivers, they are more likely to develop a secure attachment style. However, if a child experiences inconsistent or neglectful care, they may develop an anxious-preoccupied or avoidant attachment style.
The four main attachment styles:
- Secure attachment style: individuals with a secure attachment style feel comfortable with both intimacy and independence. They have positive beliefs about themselves and their partners, and they trust that their partners will be there for them when needed. They are also able to communicate their needs and emotions effectively.
- Anxious-preoccupied attachment style: Individuals with an anxious-preoccupied attachment style often fear abandonment and have a strong need for closeness and reassurance from their partners. They may worry that their partners will not be there for them or that they are not good enough for their partners. They may also be overly sensitive to changes in their relationships and may become clingy or demanding in order to maintain their partner’s attention.
- Dismissive-avoidant attachment style: Individuals with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style tend to avoid close relationships and intimacy. They may have negative beliefs about relationships and may see themselves as independent and self-sufficient. They may also suppress their emotions and may have difficulty expressing their needs or feelings to their partners.
- Fearful-avoidant attachment style: Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style have conflicting feelings about relationships. They may both desire intimacy and fear rejection or abandonment. They may also struggle with trust and have negative beliefs about themselves and their partners. They may avoid close relationships or may have difficulty maintaining them.
Psychotherapy (CBT, CFT, value work) can assist individuals with making informed decisions on what relationships would be helpful to devote time to, assessing what connections are helping them to thrive. Having an authentic analysis on how each connection has an impact on an individual and what is important in their lives is a fundamental aspect of promoting well-being and personal growth. In session an assessment of attachment style is administered. Treatment will be tailored around this, promoting (re)building secure attachments as a focus. If you wish to receive evidence based psychological support from an accredited Psychotherapist online or to arrange in-person at home visits, please get in contact.
If you feel that you, a friend or relative would benefit from a deep analysis of current relationships and to create a specific treatment plan to enhance well-being then please get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org