The Healing Power of Relationships

Written by Dr. Adrienne Stewart

Our health is influenced by the relationships we have in many areas of our life such as our relationship with food, exercise, friends and family, and ourselves. Making positive choices in these areas can empower and support our optimal health.

Relationship with Food

Many things can challenge our relationship with food. One of the biggest is the desire to eat for emotional support. We might grab chocolate during times of stress, or overeat when we feel depressed. Another challenge is avoiding fast, inexpensive food that has little nutritional value. When we are pressed for time, we might grab take out, have pizza delivered, or make boxed foods. Another common challenge is avoiding food sensitivities such as dairy or gluten. It can be difficult to give up foods that have become part of your lifestyle or that you may crave. When our relationship with food is unhealthy, it can sabotage other health goals, decreases our energy, lower our immune system, and work against the body's natural vitality.

One strategy is to be aware of what foods you are eating, when you are eating them, and how you feel before and after the meal. A food diary for one week is an easy way to have a broad overview of what you are eating on a routine basis. The more specific you are with your food diary, the more helpful it will be to assess healthy and unhealthy patterns in your diet.

Relationship with Exercise

Our relationship with exercise is important to our overall vitality. It can be hard to start an exercise routine if it is not already part of your lifestyle. Some people might feel they need to be fit already in order to have a workout routine. However, this misconception is only holding them back. Regular exercise is linked to better health, improved sleep, reduced stress, increased sex drive, and other positive effects. A healthy relationship with exercise starts with attainable goals such as exercising a few times per week. Keep your motivation high by finding forms of exercise you enjoy, joining a class, or exercising with a friend. Your motivation will improve if you like what you are doing. After you have made exercise a part of your routine, begin challenging yourself to go just further each time. This will help you build up endurance, strength and stamina.

Relationship with Friends and Family

It is important to have strong social bonds with family and friends. Not only do your relationships with others provide emotional support, but they also increase your happiness levels and sense of meaning. Social support is especially important for coping with daily stress and significant life changes. Listen to the positive messages friends and family have for you - especially if they are encouraging you to see a doctor to support your health goals. Remember to have fun and enjoy each other as well. Laughter is great medicine.

When spending more time with friends and family, be aware of how they make you feel and if they support your overall health goals. Identifying toxic friends or family members will help you know who to count on for support and from whom you may need to distance yourself.

It can be especially difficult if spouses do not agree or support each other with significant changes in their lifestyle. One spouse may decide to stop smoking or eating sugar, while the other does not. Respecting each other’s decisions can go a long way to avoiding painful conflict. It is important to talk about your goals, decide how you can best support each other, and how best to keep each other accountable.

Relationship with Yourself

The foundation of all relationships begins with the relationship you have with yourself. When your relationship with yourself is off balance, it can make it more difficult to have a healthy relationship with food, exercise, family and friends. Signs that you may be struggling in this area are low self-worth, poor body image, and low self-esteem. It might be signs that you are holding onto regret, anger and fear. If you feel out of balance, it might help to do more things that you enjoy whether it is journaling, taking a walk, or spending time with friends. It is important to keep in mind that health is a personal journey. Taking time to be present and nurture yourself can help give you the motivation to make healthy choices in all areas of your life.

Ultimately your health is in your own hands. Being mindful of your relationships in all areas can help empower you to make healthier choices. Remember to create space in your home and life that honors your healing journey, and seek out the support you need to attain better health.

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