What’s the secret to a long, happy life?
Many have searched high and low for an easy answer to this baffling question. But, what if I told you I found the answer?
Well, truthfully, the answer has been right in front of us all along: healthy relationships.
Harvard Medical School performed a study which examined data from more than 309,000 people. The results were astounding: The lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death by 50%.
Health-wise, this compares to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and is a greater risk than obesity or physical inactivity.
Perhaps strong relationships have a greater influence on our health than we realize. But that naturally poses this question:
How do we strengthen our relationships?
Well, let’s dive in and explore that further.
Prioritize Your Life
Let’s be honest… life has a way of getting away from us. Sometimes our priorities aren’t aligned, and we push those who should be first on our list to the very bottom of the list (and sometimes all the way down to the footer of the page).
And, apart from people priorities, there are all the other priorities in life:
Meeting your work deadlines…
Picking up the dry-cleaning…
School bake sales…
Home improvement projects…
Jimmy’s birthday party…
Need I go on? I think you get the point.
Just because some of the most important people in your life are currently at the end of your list doesn’t mean they should stay there. And just because your to-do list is a mile long doesn’t mean you have to do it all.
At some point, you have to draw the line.
“Less but better” is a concept from the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s the idea that we can give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do, and by doing so, we’re no longer controlled by other peoples’ agendas.
Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do. At once, we hold the key to unlock the next level of achievement in our lives.
Basically, you don’t have to say yes to everything. Saying no to the nonessential helps you focus on the people and activities that mean the most. As a result, you’ll feel more fulfilled and you’ll strengthen relationships with the people who have a positive impact on your life.
If you’re looking for ways to prioritize the things that truly matter in your life, read Essentialism. It’s life-changing.
Create Healthy Habits
Once you prioritize your life, get in the habit of spending more time with the people who mean the most to you. I’m not saying you should force it, but make an effort to see them and stop making excuses.
Make it convenient. Make it fun.
Think about the unique relationship you have, and tailor your activities to that person. It’s as easy as scheduling monthly coffee dates at your favorite coffee shop or grabbing Mexican food every other week. Maybe you both love romantic comedies—guilty as charged—so, plan a movie marathon and order some pizza.
Whatever you do, give them your full attention. Set your phones aside (after you take a selfie, of course), and be consumed in the conversation. Remember, they get just as much out of your relationship as you.
The more you see them, the more natural it becomes. And the more natural it becomes, the more you start realizing how much you were missing out on. With all this comes a better attitude and a positive outlook on life.
You can’t control time. But you can control how you spend each minute. Don’t take advantage of the one life you have to live.
Do more of what you love with the people you love.
When you look back on your life, what will you remember? It likely won’t be the things or people you were half-heartedly involved with. But rather, the people and moments that truly impacted your life.
If you make time to build healthy relationships, you’re giving yourself an irreplaceable gift: happiness.
And, who knows, maybe you’ll live a little longer too.
What are some fun activities you enjoy doing with your friends and family? Share ’em in the comments!