The Healing Power of Relationships: One's health can be influenced by the relationships we have with food, exercise, family and friends and ourself, says Dr. Adrienne Stewart
Feb 01, 2013 03:52PM
● By Adrienne Stewart, NMD
Our health is influenced by the relationships we have in many areas of our life, such as our relationship with food, exercise, friends, family and ourselves. Making positive choices in these areas can empower and support our optimal wellness.
Relationship with Food
Many things can challenge our relationship with food. One of the biggest is the desire to eat for emotional support. We might grab chocolate during times of stress or overeat when we feel depressed. Another challenge is avoiding fast, inexpensive food that has little nutritional value. When we are pressed for time, we might grab take-out, have pizza delivered or make boxed foods. Another common challenge is avoiding food sensitivities such as dairy or gluten. It can be difficult to give up foods that have become part of our lifestyle or that we may crave. When our relationship with food is unhealthy, it can sabotage other health goals, decrease our energy, lower our immune system and sap the body's natural vitality.
One strategy is to be aware of what foods we are eating, when we are eating them, and how we feel before and after the meal. Keeping a food diary for one week is an easy way to have a broad overview of what we are eating on a routine basis. The more specific we are, the more helpful it will be to discern healthy and unhealthy patterns in our diet.
Relationship with Exercise
Our relationship with exercise is important to overall vitality. It can be hard to start an exercise routine if it is not already part of our lifestyle. Some people might feel they need to be fit already in order to have a workout routine, but this misconception is only holding them back. Regular exercise is linked to better health, improved sleep, reduced stress, increased sex drive and other positive effects. A healthy relationship with exercise starts with attainable goals such as exercising a few times per week. Keep motivation high by finding other enjoyable forms of exercise, joining a class or exercising with a friend. Our motivation will improve if we like what we are doing. After we have made exercise a part of our routine, we can begin challenging ourself to go further each time. This will help build up endurance, strength and stamina.
Relationship with Friends and Family
It is important to have strong social bonds with family and friends. Not only do our relationships with others provide emotional support, but they also increase our happiness levels and sense of meaning. Social support is especially important for coping with daily stress and significant life changes. Listen to the positive messages friends and family have for us—especially if they are encouraging us to see a doctor to support our health goals. Remember to have fun and enjoy each other as well. Laughter is great medicine.
Be aware of how these people make us feel and if they support our overall health goals. Identifying toxic friends or family members will help us know who to count on for support and from whom we may need to distance ourself. It can be especially difficult if spouses do not agree or support each other with significant changes in their lifestyle. One spouse may decide to stop smoking or eating sugar, while the other does not. Respecting each other’s decisions can go a long way to avoiding painful conflict. It is important to talk about our goals, decide how we can support each other, and how best to keep each other accountable.
Relationship with Ourself
The foundation of all relationships begins with the relationship we have with ourself. When our relationship with ourself is off-balance, it can make it more difficult to have a healthy relationship with food, exercise, family and friends. Signs that we may be struggling in this area are low self-worth, poor body image and low self-esteem. Those might be signs that we are holding onto regret, anger and fear. If we feel out of balance, it might help to do more things that we enjoy, whether it is journaling, taking a walk or spending time with friends. It is important to keep in mind that health is a personal journey. Taking time to be present and nurture ourself can help give us the motivation to make healthy choices in all areas of our life.
Ultimately, our health is in our own hands. Being mindful of our relationships in all areas can help empower us to make healthier choices. We should remember to create space in our home and life that honors our healing journey, and seek out the support we need to attain better health.
Dr. Adrienne Stewart is a naturopathic physician practicing at Integrative Health, in Scottsdale, concentrating on fertility, preconception health and environmental medicine. She empowers patients that are struggling with fatigue, hormone imbalances, weight gain, or poor digestion by providing natural and effective treatment and prevention strategies. Learn more at MyIntegrativeHealth.com.