happy smiling mixed race friends sitting together

Ever feel stressed out, tired, maybe even unhappy?

Living day to day under a cloud of unhappiness can take a toll on your physical and mental health, and it can show up like this:1

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Lack of motivation

Maybe you’ve been down this road before. And you’ve looked everywhere for the secret to happiness. Yes?

Here’s a hint: You won’t find lasting happiness with money, fame or fortune. It’s not the house you live in, car you drive, or your net worth. It’s not even the perfect body or optimal health.

So what’s the key to happiness?

New research points to healthy relationships as the number one predictor for happiness.

In the Harvard Study of Adult Development that spanned 80 years, researchers found one thing was a greater predictor of happiness than anything else: Relationships.2

The more healthy relationships in your life, the happier you’ll be. Surrounded by toxic or unhealthy relationships? Happiness is going to be harder to achieve, regardless of income, social-economic status, physical health, wealth, career, and many other factors.

Take a look at the close relationships you have with people in your life like your:

  • Spouse or partner
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Boss
  • Co-workers
  • Friends

Chances are pretty good some of these relationships are better than others. But are any of these relationships toxic or unhealthy? Here’s how to tell:3

  • You feel drained, frustrated, or upset any time you interact with a certain person
  • There’s someone in your circle you always have negative thoughts about
  • You put a lot of effort into supporting a relationship, while the other person doesn’t
  • You feel worthless and unappreciated by someone

Any of these raise a red flag? If you’re nodding your head, it’s a sign you’re in an unhealthy relationship that needs work so you can be happier.

Happiness: 6 Ways to Build Healthy Relationships

Want to build healthier relationships to boost happiness? Here are six ways to connect with the people in your life in positive ways:

1. Be a good listener

When you’re with someone, give them your undivided attention and listen to what they’re saying. Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Limit distractions. Ask follow up questions and restate what they said to make sure you understand what they’re saying.

2. Remember, it’s not always about you

When someone asks for your advice or wants to talk about a problem, keep the focus on what they’re dealing with. You might share similar or relevant experiences that could help them, but remember it’s not always about you.

3. Stay calm

In the middle of a heated conversation with someone? Stay calm. Yelling or speaking in a negative or aggressive way won’t help. If you can’t keep your cool, table the conversation for later.

4. Choose to act…instead of reacting

If you’re upset or frustrated with someone about an issue, check yourself first. If you’re tired, hungry, lonely, or under a lot of stress, being upset may have more to do with yourself than someone else.

5. Spend time together

If you want to develop healthy relationships, spending time together helps build connections. Pick up the phone. Walk over to their office. Set up a video call. Work on a project together or go for a walk.

6. Focus on the positive

It’s easy to be critical, find fault, or point out mistakes. But what if you spend more time focusing on the positive, being grateful, and recognizing the things someone is doing well? You’ll feel happier and build better relationships with others.

If you’re in a relationship that needs work, it doesn’t mean you have to cut the person out of your life (sometimes it’s the best option). If you and the other person are willing to work on your relationship, you can make it better.

Healthy relationships take time to develop and require mutual respect. If you really want to be happy, developing positive relationships is one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health.

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