The Harvard Study of Adult Development has followed 724 men from 1938 until today to find out what truly keeps people healthy and happy. The study eventually incorporated the spouses of the original men and their descendants. Although career achievement, exercise and a healthy diet are important and contribute to happiness, the study found that these are not the most important. Good relationships are what keep us healthier and happier.
Take stock of your relationships
Which relationships mean the most to you and which ones might need work? Maybe there is a person in your life that is toxic or a person you love who is difficult. Take stock of your relationships annually and determine how you can improve them, then see how things have or have not improved in a year.
Have someone you can count on
Humans are social creatures, and everyone needs at least one solid relationship. This is the person you would call in the middle of the night if you really needed someone to talk to because you are scared, worried or cannot sleep.
Think about a time you spoke to a friend or loved one about something that was bothering you. You probably felt some relief, just by talking about it. If you have at least one good relationship, it can lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety and stress, and give you a better sense of purpose.
If you are alone and feel stressed and lonely, though, it is dangerous to your health.
An important part of any healthy relationship is communication. Speak up when you have a problem, and do not let your emotions fester.
Know how to apologize
An important part of communication is the power of apology. As much as most of us would like to avoid conflict and confrontation or saying and doing the wrong thing, it is inevitable that we will make a mistake, hurt someone’s feelings and need to apologize. When you apologize, it allows you to learn a lesson you can avoid in the future. It helps you restore your relationship.
Make time for small talk
Small relationships are important, too. The neighbor you often see while walking your dog, the attendant at the local car wash, your child’s teacher, the postal carrier, the person sitting next to you on an airplane—these are all small relationships that contribute to your well-being and give you a sense of belonging.
When you notice that your child took initiative or you miss your spouse, when you call an old friend or send your mom a card that tells her you are thinking about her—these are all forms of expression. Speak up, and let your loved ones or even the cashier at the coffee shop know how much you appreciate them.
When you are vulnerable, you take a chance of getting hurt. It can be difficult to open up to someone when you fear that another person might reject you because of your insecurities, fears and secrets. But relationships need vulnerability to thrive and deepen. When you share your thoughts, beliefs and values, you will feel connection and growth.
Myriad studies have been conducted about the importance of kindness. It boosts confidence, happiness and optimism. Kindness comes in many forms—when you help a person struggling, smile at someone, give a compliment to a stranger or a loved one, thank someone, make dinner for a sick friend, call your dad to tell him you love him, celebrate a co-worker’s success. Kindness strengthens all relationships.
When you respect someone, you accept them for who they are, even though they are different or share opposing opinions. You appreciate them and acknowledge their opinions, wants, ideas and feelings. Respect builds feelings of safety, trust and well-being.
As a member of the legal profession, you have the opportunity to have many different kinds of relationships—with your co-workers, the public, your colleagues. You most likely understand the importance of relationships and how they can affect your well-being. But it is also important to note that no one is happy all the time. We will all have challenges and setbacks, and that is ok. Investing in your relationships with others can help you cope, learn and grow.
If you find that you are depressed, stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, seek help. The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program helps lawyers, judges and law students manage life's stresses. OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. All inquiries are confidential. (800) 348-4343 / ohiolap.org
If you are a judge or a magistrate and you are struggling, or if you know a co-worker who is having problems with mental health and/or substance use, contact the Judicial Advisory Group, a peer-based confidential assistance group that helps judges and magistrates with personal and professional issues. For more information, go to www.ohiolap.org/judges or call (800) 348-4343.