In the individualistic culture that we live in, we may tend to believe we are living our own separate lives, while those around us are going through life separately too. In reality, we all have connections. Whether we realize it or not, our well-being is largely influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that certain health behaviors appear to be contagious and that our social networks (in-person and online) can have a major influence on our mental health and overall happiness.
So, when are looking within for self-improvement and to make positive changes for our mental health, we must also look outward to the people we surround ourselves with. We may find that while some people improve our lives, others may inhibit our personal growth.
If we’re feeling overwhelmed with difficult emotions, a sense of aloneness or separateness, or dissatisfaction with our current relationships, we may struggle to further our own self-growth. Instead, we should surround ourselves with people who also want to live healthily, who share our values, and who encourage and inspire us. Try out this Mindful practice to help us create a positive shift in the community around us:
Look at Your Connections You Interact With Most
First, take some time to evaluate the community of people you connected with most and ask yourself:
- Does this person inspire me and give me energy?
- Do they remind me to live the change I want to see in my life?
Identify if there are people in your life that bring you down. You can determine if you have these negative relationships by thinking about how you feel after spending time with them. Do you feel good about yourself, or more drained, unsure of yourself or agitated? You don’t have to burn bridges with these people, but it may be beneficial to shift your energy to surround yourself with people who lift you up more.
We will form the best connections with people who make us happy and have similar interests, passions and values. Good connections also challenge us in a positive way. It’s great to form connections with people of many different backgrounds and perspectives. There’s a lot we can learn from these differences.
If you believe that you already have these great connections, reach out to those people and thank them for playing a positive role in your life.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
For those of us seeking more meaningful connections, we may have to take the first step in reaching out to others. It may feel intimidating, but sometimes it takes a bit of a push to seek out the people who will best encourage, support, and inspire us. Those kinds of people will likely be excited by the idea of forming a deeper connection with you.
Try brainstorming a bit. Ask yourself, where can I find a new connection or a mentor? Where can I find peers who want to live by the same values? It may help to physically write down the qualities you are seeking in your relationships. Perhaps you are seeking less negativity or criticism. Or maybe you want to surround yourself with focused and productive people. Each connection can give us something valuable and different. You can also brainstorm where you might find them and how you could make contact with them.
Implement Changes & Begin to Shift Direction
Once we identify the types of relationships we want to pursue, then we can begin taking action. Seek out meaningful conversations and opportunities to connect with someone beyond the surface. Take note of your interactions and how these positive changes feel.
It can be great to make a shift, when we feel stuck in our environment, to foster more meaningful relationships. However, we know that it may be more difficult to generate this type of change during the pandemic. The current circumstances can limit the opportunities for in-person interactions. If you are able to reach out to others virtually or find safe ways to connect with others through social distancing, then that’s great. But it’s okay if we are experiencing more challenges in this area of our lives right now. Take it one step at a time.