When it comes to our wellbeing…

NICHOLAS CAMPBELL-WATTS for web…other people matter.

We are much happier and healthier with other people in our lives. To launch National Mental Health Awareness Week at Certitude, Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Director for Mental Health, discusses the importance of this year’s theme: relationships.

Good relationships with your family, friends, neighbours and local communities are, without doubt, the secret to living a happy and fulfilling life. There is growing evidence now linking our health and wellbeing to the quality and quantity of relationships we have in our lives, making them as important as other factors such as eating well, exercising more and even giving up smoking – and certainly on a par with paying your bills, taking medication and keeping your home clean and tidy.  In fact, having great relationships with people in your life, gives you more motivation to look after yourself better.

Relationships, though, can be pretty tricky, complicated and demanding. You have to be really willing to commit time and attention to building and maintaining them – the more effort that you can give to this, the more rewarding they often are. Great relationships are valuable in many ways – research suggests that they contribute to people being able to deal with stress better, become healthier, feel life is more fulfilling and even live longer. At their best, relationships give you a sense of how important you are to other people and how important they are to you.

You matter to people and they matter to you…

Mattering and belonging are fundamental to helping us think positively about ourselves and being able to look at life with hopefulness rather than helplessness.

But it is difficult.

If being happy and healthy is rooted in great relationships, then it is easy to understand why life can feel so tough for people when they feel alone. For many people living with mental health issues, it can be a real challenge to hold on to important relationships with family and friends. It can feel really difficult to give the time and attention to keeping in touch with people or renewing contact with family and friends that you haven’t spoken to in a while. It is even harder to feel confident and positive about joining local groups or communities.

Low confidence and self-esteem can grow into negative thinking patterns, making it hard to try new things or complete tasks, which can stop you from living your life the way you want. When these feelings increase, all of your attention and energy is often focused on simply getting through each day.

Small steps help.

Just enough of the right support at the right time to take a few steps towards meeting people brings people closer to making friends with people with shared interests in the community. Research has shown that peer-run groups and activities often result in larger support networks, improved confidence and a more active social life. This also helps people to step away from relying on formal mental health support services and start their journey towards rediscovering what really matters to them. At a time when people find themselves under increasing pressure and living through times of growing uncertainty, it is relationships that are able to give us all hope.