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Enhancing Communication for Healthy Relationships

Michelle Martin

Most of us understand that good nutrition, exercise, and reduced stress are part of a healthy lifestyle. More recent studies have uncovered the benefits of social connection, along with how social isolation can negatively affect our health and wellbeing.

There are many ingredients to healthy relationships, but it isn’t always easy to maintain balance within those relationships. Consider focusing on a few specific areas which support social connection and healthy relationships.

Respect and Trust
Sharing our thoughts and feelings openly and constructively can help us avoid miscommunications. However, we do need to keep the other person’s experience in mind while we are communicating. Even calm and collected people have emotional conversations where they may have reacted inappropriately or with a lack of empathy. We are all human and we will make mistakes. If we can let go of the need for perfection and focus on mutual respect, it can be the foundation for thoughtful and trusting relationships.

Respect is one of the fundamental forces behind healthy relationships. It is a way of feeling about people and showing esteem or honor for them.

Ways to build trust and respect:
· Communicate with honesty and transparency
· Practice active listening
· Value the feelings, needs, and experiences of others
· Seek truth not speculation
· Support the experiences and endeavors of others
· Practice positivity when supporting others

Cultivation of Self
It’s important to keep a healthy balance of time and effort spent on your individual interests, goals, and self-support. Regular time spent with family and friends, along with your own hobbies and interests enhances fulfillment. The cultivation of self is rarely discussed, but it is incredibly important for long-term wellbeing.

If you’re interested in increasing your self-awareness and self-improvement (which increases respect and trust), take some time to reflect on your daily choices and actions. This can help you understand where you want to focus your efforts. Are you seeking more purpose in your life? Do you want to challenge your belief system? Be boldly curious about how you can enhance your own experience and the experience of those around you.

· Integrity, Humility, Gratitude and Authenticity (IHGA) are essential in defining your character and building a conscious sense of self and lifestyle. Take some time to address how each of these characteristics present in your life and how you can make improvements.
· Do you have a fixed mindset? Shifting your mindset starts with reviewing your belief system and behaviors. It is possible to change a lifestyle habit for the positive. The process of shifting your mindset takes time, so be patient and kind to yourself.

Productive communication is a learnable skill. As humans we are always communicating. Our words, facial expressions, vocal tone, and physical gestures all convey our emotions, so it’s important to learn how to positively express your thoughts, feelings, and needs for effective collaboration.

Active Listening is an immersive experience in which your focus is on another individual and your responsibility is to listen and learn. The next time you are in a situation which warrants intentional listening, remember the goal of presence:
· Scan your body to check for ways you can set aside distractions and focus.
· Remove distractions and keep your intention on what someone is telling you in the present moment, rather than the thought of what you want to say next.
· Leave your ego and judgement at the door. Attempt to understand what someone is saying or asking without having the need to be right.

Ask yourself these questions before you respond:
· Am I acting or saying something out of frustration or anger?
· Am I listening with the intention to collaborate and problem-solve? Or, am I in a state of ego – needing to be heard, or right?
· Will what I do or say increase a positive outcome?

Life is all about balance, which includes our relationships. However, it can be difficult to maintain balance. One person may need more attention while going through a difficult experience. Relationships are not always going to be fifty-fifty. Learning to compromise to alleviate your partner’s stress brings positivity to a relationship and can build trust and respect. This is different from long-term compromise, or any example where your mental or physical health suffers.

Attempt to focus on understanding, solution seeking, and other individual perspectives. Collaboration isn’t about expectation it’s about expanding our opportunities and collective experience.

Compassion and Empathy
We all go through difficult moments in our lives. The more we can see from different perspectives, the more evolved we become. When you provide compassion, you’re not avoiding, escaping, or pretending suffering doesn’t exist. With compassion you stay present with suffering without taking ownership of it. Studies show the act of compassion reduces blood pressure and increases levels of oxytocin (feel-good hormone).

Providing empathy improves your ability to respond to an emotional experience. Research professor and author, Brené Brown describes empathy as a way to fuel connection, and notes four characteristics:
· Viewing someone’s perspective as someone their truth.
· Staying out of judgement.
· Recognizing emotion in other people and communicating that.
· Feeling with people.

Valuable social connections and healthy relationships support our health and wellbeing, and even help us live longer. Take time to assess, cultivate, and celebrate the health of your relationships, both with others and yourself.
Michelle MartinMichelle is a Certified International Health Coach (CIHC) and Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She supports Canopy’s health and wellness initiatives through a holistic approach based on bio–individuality. Michelle writes and speaks about health-related issues including sleep hygiene, nutrition, mindfulness, and forgiveness. She has presented for a wide variety of industries and audiences, and encourages attendees to be boldly curious about their wellness journey. Michelle volunteers her time as a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) instructor, providing evidence-based education and coaching for families of loved ones with a mental health condition.

Along with supporting wellbeing initiatives, she is part of the Customer Success Management team and assists with providing proactive service and solutions for Canopy Members and partners.