Black History Month. Groundhog Day. Presidents’ Day. Valentine’s Day. Mardi Gras. Of all the things I think of in connection to the month of February, “National Relationship Wellness Month” is sadly the last that comes to mind! However, with this long-lasting pandemic, I think it’s safe to say that healthy, fruitful relationships are the fuel needed in order to navigate this unpredictable ride we call life.
While it may sound a little unorthodox for me to say that I enjoyed the forced slow down that was 2020, being able to spend more time with my husband, daughter, and friends (virtually, of course) was such a refreshing gift that I didn’t realize I was missing out on! With work always willing to consume our minds even when we’re off duty, I realized I was trading a lot of quality time with loved ones for a to-do list that continued to grow longer no matter how many things were checked off each day! For many of us, the change in pace (and life as we knew it) showcased the level of wellness in our friendships, partnerships, and all other relationships. And for many of us…..we noticed a need for a change.
Wellness is defined as “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” When considering the level of relational wellness in our own lives, there are so many different dimensions and components to explore! According to Roger Williams University, five dimensions of wellness to consider are “physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.” Applying these dimensions through our own lenses helps us to determine if we’re satisfied with the relationships in our lives or if we’d like to go deeper and/or make changes for the better.
As you think about the relationships with your friends, family, coworkers, children, neighbors, self and/or partner, take some time to pause and reflect through the following categories.
I don’t know about you, but physical activity is one of the most impactful ways that I enhance my relationship with myself. Every time I complete a workout, teach a Hip Hop cardio class, do some yoga, or go for a walk, I feel so happy, strong, and empowered! Now that we’re experiencing subzero temps here in Minnesota however, it is SO tempting to hibernate and neglect moving my body. In order to continue to pour into my own cup physically, it might actually be a two-for-one deal to also pour into the bond I have with my husband and daughter to invite them to complete a workout with me (hello, living room dance party!) or even to set physical goals as a family. With friends and family outside of my home, consider hosting a Zoom workout once a week or start a fitness challenge with a nice prize to work towards! Including your loved ones in goal setting is a way to both hold one another accountable and grow closer as you share common goals and interests.
The introvert in me enjoys social distancing way more than I’d like to admit. Even with that truth, I have been more connected virtually in the past year than I probably have been all of my life! For the sake of your mental health, physical distancing doesn’t (and shouldn’t) equate to social distancing. With the plethora of online tools aimed at keeping us connected, there are boundless opportunities for us to go a little deeper socially. Just recently, I attended my good friend’s gender reveal! Sure, we couldn’t get together physically, but that didn’t stop our excitement as we found an alternate way to share in the love and joy that is her (newly revealed) baby girl! Host a virtual game night! If you live in an opposite climate of my icebox of a state, get outside and enjoy your friends safely! It’s so easy to allow ourselves to become hermits and attempt to deal with all that is happening on our own, but we are wired and built for community. I’m challenging you today to go beyond a text or tweet and actually connect with at least one person this week in a meaningful, authentic way. “Smiling Depression” may not be a clinical diagnosis, but it’s unfortunately very common and very real. Sometimes, just reaching out and checking in on a loved one is exactly the support they need to receive. Who will you reach out to this week?
For guys and gals alike, emotional wellness in some relationships is like that awkward kitchen drawer that is one item away from spilling over and clearly needs some attention, but rarely gets it. It seems like taking care of our emotional wellness in romantic relationships/partnerships is a no-brainer, but when it comes to platonic friendships or relationships with family and coworkers, we tend to feel uncomfortable addressing emotional needs with the other party. While it may feel like the easier way out to avoid the emotional upkeep required to maintain healthy relationships, eschewing our needs in this way actually prevents us from growing deeper in our connections. One way to practice emotional wellness in our relationships is by implementing you-first boundaries. Instead of dodging that family member who you used to enjoy because of their radical opinions, just reply with “I love hanging out with you when we don’t talk about (insert offense here). Can we agree to put that on the off-limits list for now?” If they consent, yay! If not, it’s your responsibility to insert whatever boundary is necessary to take care of your well-being. My husband always says, “people will always ‘people’, ” meaning we can always count on our human nature to show up… good or bad. Prioritizing emotional wellness in relationships essentially requires us to show up for ourselves, pouring into our own emotional needs just as much as we pour into others.
Intellectual & Spiritual
These two dimensions of relational wellness are probably the absolute most impactful. Are you in relationship with people who positively contribute intellectually and spiritually, or are the people in your life stagnating your growth? It’s commonly shared that we are the sum of the five closest relationships in our lives. Pause right now and identify your own Top 5. Is it safe to share your dreams, fears, highs, and lows with these people? Do they create space for you to be your authentic self? Are you inspired by them (& vice versa) or are envy and competition secret components in the relationship? I identify as Christian, and my faith is pivotal to who I am. I’ve found that being connected to like-minded friends and acquaintances is incredibly important for my own spiritual growth, especially during difficult seasons of life. I can’t imagine going through obstacles and having no one to turn to for spiritual encouragement! The same goes for intellectual relationships. We don’t talk about this often enough, but there is something so refreshing about being around people who just. get. it! Even as a teacher at heart, I get so exhausted in relationships that require me to have to explain everything or that don’t allow me to talk about the things that matter most to me. Of course, I’m not encouraging you to ditch your childhood best friend if that relationship is not flourishing and serving you, but I am suggesting that you also engage in relationships that resemble your desired future and not your outgrown past.
Now that we’ve taken this dive into things to consider for National Relationship Wellness Month, what does relational wellness look like for you? Are there any areas you would like to pour into a little more after reading this post?
Comment below, I’d love to hear from you!