Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking - S.J. Scott, Barrie Davenport (2016)

Part III. DECLUTTERING YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

The Negative Impact of Bad Relationships

Your children drive you crazy. Your parents are too needy. Your boss is a jerk. Your spouse doesn’t understand you. Your best friend never calls.

How often do you feel irritated, frustrated, or even furious with the people in your life?

The answer to this question is important because relationship problems are a leading cause of unhappiness that people feel in life.

We replay unpleasant conversations in our heads and stew for hours over a perceived slight. Or we’re detached from our friends and loved ones, only to feel lonely, isolated, and unloved.

We create false mental narratives about other people, assigning to them thoughts and behaviors that may or may not be true, but that feel hurtful and overwhelming nonetheless.

Now, it’s true that you can’t coexist with others without the occasional misunderstanding. However, if you find that most interactions leave you emotionally drained, then you should look for ways to either improve these relationships or remove certain people from your life.

Imagine if you had no anxiety related to the people in your life. How much less cluttered would your mind be? How much more energy could you put toward productive, positive pursuits?

Although the important people in our lives can be the source of mental distress, our close relationships remain one of the fundamental components in life contributing to long-term happiness.

Can Great Relationships Lead to Happiness?

One of the longest studies ever conducted on happiness is the Harvard Study of Adult Development , previously known as the Grant Study in Social Adjustments. Since 1937, researchers at Harvard have been examining the question of what makes us happy by following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s. They have followed them through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age.

Robert Waldinger, the psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor who currently leads the study, says the long-term research is unequivocal: “Close relationships and social connections keep you happy and healthy. That is the bottom line. People who were more concerned with achievement or less concerned with connection were less happy. Basically, humans are wired for personal connections.”

How is it that relationships can contribute so much to our happiness while also being a huge source of our mental fatigue? The key is not just having relationships—it’s having high-quality relationships. Whether with a romantic partner, friend, family member, or even work associate, a high-quality relationship involves:

·                   Prioritizing the relationship

·                   Open communication

·                   Healthy conflict resolution

·                   Mutual trust and respect

·                   Shared interests

·                   Some level of emotional and/or intellectual intimacy

·                   Acceptance and forgiveness

·                   Physical touch (for personal relationships)

It’s in our best interest to be proactive about how we choose the people in our lives and how we choose to interact with them. Creating, maintaining, and nurturing good relationships is necessary for our well-being and peace of mind.

Rather than looking to others to make relationship changes, the best place to start is within you . Even if your family members, friends, and business associates need to improve their relationship skills, you can go a long way in reducing stress in your life by initiating changes in you. You can’t change others, anyway—you only have the power to control how you interact with and react to the people around you.

Let’s look at four ways you can improve your relationships, which can have a direct, positive impact on your mindset.