“Happiness is only real when shared.”
Christopher McCandless wrote these words before passing away alone in an abandoned bus in Alaska (at least as shown in the cinematic depiction, "Into the Wild").
This solo traveler—who craved solitude away from the outside world—probably isn’t the only one who has realized that humans are social creatures. With all the awe contained in aloneness, one undoubtedly still needs interactions to thrive.
Without a doubt, the nature of our relationships can greatly affect our health and wellness. One either builds a positive network that acts as a support system, or a negative one that brings us down.
The rocky 20s don’t make it easier for people to choose between the two networks—this decade is undeniably a time for personal blunders and perplexity. Only when I’d entered my 30s did I realize that choosing who I spent my time with determined the quality of my well-being.
How can we build nourishing relationships that bring us inner peace? What are the tools that help us carry these relationships into our 30s?
Here are six tips for a healthier, more positive social structure.
We’ve all experienced an identity crisis in the midst of our 20s—not knowing where to begin is familiar to almost everyone. Approaching our 30s, we begin to understand that in order to create anything in the outside world, some inner work must first be done.
That said, whoever seeks positivity and growth in other people must first work on their own self health. For a healthy relationship to bloom, one should identify what they’re willing to give others and the quality of behaviors they intend to exhibit. For instance, when we are kind with ourselves, it becomes familiar for us to then be kind with others, too. And those who have a sense of self-worth will easily find value in others.
What are the things that are important? What are the priorities that matter? Our individual core values establish where we need to channel our energies. Needless to say, building healthy relationships is simpler when we understand our values.
In defining what we want from our relationships—in any decade of our lives—we become better at making choices about whom to have them with. We might choose to hang out with a new cheerful circle, to reconnect with people in our past who were of benefit, or to let go of relationships that are toxic.
A healthy, nurturing relationship doesn’t grow without the right conditions. Anyone who receives advice, care, time, empathy, help, respect, and understanding must be willing to give them back. With the closing of our 20s, we realize that a major part of the continuity of healthy relationships depends on whether both people are willing to offer this care to each other.
In order to reciprocate what we get, we need to shift the focus from ourselves to the receiver. Think of all the gratitude, respect, happiness, and worth that the other person will experience when we give back to them.
I’ve always been a people pleaser—especially during my 20s. As a result, I have attracted manipulative and abusive people who took advantage of my constant “yes.” The best thing one can be mindful of is saying “no” when required. It helps to build strong, genuine, and healthy relationships. People always appreciate and value the person for who she really is, rather than who she pretends to be.
Follow your intuition.
The gut never lies. It’s the inner, silent voice that leads the way. When it comes to interactions with other people, tapping into that voice helps determine the nature of the relationship with them. Oftentimes, when we ignore our intuition, we tend to build connections that come to a painful end. Let go of what’s flown away in the past few years and get ready for what’s coming.
Transform toxic relationships.
There are people who tear others down and take them for granted. And there are those who spread negativity or get cynical in the face of adversity. We don’t necessarily need to cut ties with someone when the relationship has become stressful and toxic. We may be able to positively transform it through addressing (rather than avoiding) our issues and practicing compassion.
Building healthy, harmonious relationships is a skill—one we build with time. Only we can decide which relationships will play a part in the upcoming chapters of our lives. It is true that our 30s might be a terrifying chapter, but once we’re there, we will realize that happiness and peace is a choice and a responsibility. Creating it isn’t so hard after all.