What do Relationships Have to Do With Happiness?

Posted by on Apr 6, 2010 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What do Relationships Have to Do With Happiness?

I always ask the question “what do you want to have happen as a result of coming here?” at some point during my first meeting with new or prospective clients. The hands-down most common answer is “I (or we) want to be happy.” While one person’s idea of happiness may be very different from that of another, I recently came across a program that did a fantastic job of explaining some basic but important things we need to be happy in our lives, as well as what happens to us when these things are missing.

“This Emotional Life” is a three-part series that aired earlier this year on PBS and explores how and why improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals can lead to greater happiness. I truly think this is the best program I have ever seen on mental health issues. The creators of the series kept things interesting by using a combination of compelling real-life experiences of “ordinary” people, insights from well-known celebrities, and current scientific research to illustrate their points. They also did a great job of explaining some complicated emotional issues and concepts in a clear, easy to understand manner that came across as genuine rather than condescending.

Since I earn my living by helping people have healthier, more satisfying intimate relationships, it’s probably no great surprise that I was particularly interested in the episode on social relationships (Episode 1). This episode emphasizes the fact that social relationships, more than any other factor, are the key to human happiness. To paraphrase a line from the show, “We are happy when our relationships are strong, we worry when they become weakened, and we suffer when they are absent or disappear.” This episode highlights how healthy attachment, effective communication, conflict resolution, respect, and trust are all necessary ingredients for people to be happy in their relationships with family, friends, and lovers. The best part from my perspective was that it took things a step further by consistently emphasizing the fact that we have to be proactive to achieve relationship happiness. To put it simply, being happy in our relationships takes work but the payoffs for our emotional and physical wellbeing are enormous and well worth it.

I definitely recommend watching this series. Whether you purchase a copy from PBS, DVR the rebroadcast, rent it from a video retailer, or check it out from your local library, it will be worth watching. If you are like me and don’t have six hours to devote to watching the whole thing all at once, try breaking it down into smaller more manageable pieces. Feel free to let me know what you thought of it or if you have questions.


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