Are you lucky enough to enjoy healthy and happy relationships with lots of lovely friends? Or do you feel lonely, or stuck with people who just drag you down? We reveal how to build healthy relationships with positive people.
One of the biggest issues that many new mums struggle with is loneliness – especially while on maternity leave. We have no colleagues to discuss last night’s TV with or grab a quick sandwich with, and our old friends are usually busy leading their own lives, often far from the tiny perimeter around our home that our life now seems to revolve around.
And sometimes the people we do know and spend time with aren’t always good for us. As a new mum it’s important to spend time with positive, supportive people, who can ease your journey into your new life and help you avoid the post-baby blues.
But often as we go through life we fall into relationships with people who aren’t necessarily healthy for us, and it can be hard to extract ourselves from them.
How do you build healthy new relationships?
So how do we strike out and build new relationships with people? And just as importantly, move away from negative relationships that we may feel trapped in – relationships that suck the positive energy from our life and prevent us from building better relationships with more emotionally-healthy friends.
Career management coach and corporate trainer Jane Jackson shares her advice on building healthier relationships with positive people.
The first place to start looking is in you!
Do you spend the majority of your time in the wrong relationship, or on activities that take you away from good relationships? If so, you may be trapped in a cycle of temporary friendships and superficial relationships that are briefly exciting but meaningless.
But while you may recognise that the people in your life aren’t always good for you, what can you do about it? How can you build positive, lasting relationships?
Where do you find great friends who can be ‘the wind beneath our wings’ – people who love and support us through good times and tough times? Friends to share your exciting and sometimes scary journey as a mum?
The first place you need to look, maybe surprisingly, is in yourself.
Are you comfortable with yourself?
You see, it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone else if you’re not genuinely comfortable with yourself. One big reason for this is because when you remove yourself from negative relationships and people who drag you down, you’ll often spend more time on your own for a while.
But if you fear solitude, you risk staying in situations, or with people who may not be good for you. You may feel a desperate need to ‘belong’, whether or not it’s the right situation for you to be in.
It can also lead you to making firm friends too hastily – bonding with the first mum you come across at a baby group, irrespective of whether she’s someone you genuinely bond with.
Are you worried you’re not good enough?
If you don’t fully value yourself, you also risk not being your authentic self with others, as you’ll be worried the real you is not good enough. Instead you’ll crave external validation of who you are, and that you’re ‘okay’ by being what you think others want to see.
This can create a vicious cycle that takes you away from the feeling of peace that comes from accepting that you are ‘enough’. Enough in your own eyes is the best place to start – from there you can build positive relationships with those who appreciate you for who you really are.
Are you happy spending time alone?
But what does being comfortable with yourself mean? It means being happy to spend time alone, relishing the freedom of simply reading, writing, learning a new skill, or doing anything you enjoy.
Getting lost in the moment while enjoying simple pleasures is amazing for your soul, because when you learn to enjoy solitude you won’t need to have people around just for the sake of not being alone. And instead you can take the time to seek out people who genuinely add something positive to your life.
Reach out to good people you know
Once you’ve built a solid personal foundation and are truly comfortable with yourself, you can start to build positive new relationships with people. And the best place to start is often to reach out to the good people you know who you’ve not kept in touch with regularly.
This can include family members, old school friends, people you’ve worked with, friends of friends – even someone you met in a baby group or cafe. Basically anyone you’ve always thought was nice to be around.
List the people you wish you had kept in touch with and make contact with them. If it’s been many years and you don’t have their contact details, look them up on Facebook, Google or LinkedIn.
This may sound a simple step, but when you reach out you never know what positive outcomes may occur. I’ve found that the Universe rewards positive action – you get what you give eventually. And to rebuild your life positively you need to take action!
Be interested in others
Another way to lay the foundations of a healthy relationship is to take a genuine interest in the new people you meet. When you help others, they will usually want to help you too – kindness begets kindness.
So think who you can help today. Who can benefit from your skills, knowledge and experience? Who will appreciate your time, thoughts and company? Who do you want to build a tentative new friendship with? And what can you do that will make them feel good or valued?
Being interested in others can also be as simple as just taking the time to ask about them. Remember the things that are important to them, and find out what they care about – ask questions and really listen to the answers.
Not only does reaching out to help others without thought of your own gains instigate a positive chain reaction, but it stops you focusing on yourself, and your problems and worries – ultimately helping to put them in a healthier perspective.
Interest isn’t a one-way street, either. Genuinely nice people will care just as much about you and your interests – they’ll want to talk about things you’re interested in, and go out of their way to help you if you need it.
Join a group or association
The quickest and easiest way to meet people who love what you love is to join an association or group that offers what you enjoy.
So whether you have a passion for a sporting activity, artistic venture, book discussions, music, cooking, IT, spirituality, or walking, find a local group to join. Not only will you feed your soul by doing something for yourself that you enjoy, but you will meet others who also share your interests and passions.
(If you struggle to identify a passion or interest in your life, think back to when you were a child and were naturally drawn to activities. What did you love doing then? What filled you with joy – not necessarily because you were good at it, but simply because you loved doing it?)
One place you can look for local groups is www.meetup.com – a global site that helps you to search for groups in your area. If you can’t find one you like, you can even start your own.
Baby groups, and later school events are also a great place to meet other women who share a common experience with you (children the same age!). Not only does this give you a great starting point (and obvious conversation starters) but they’ll also face the same restrictions on time, so you won’t find yourself missing out on child-unfriendly events.
How I have made my own great friends
When I moved from Hong Kong to London many years ago, I knew no one and found it difficult to meet people outside of work. I loved playing squash and joined the local squash club, started playing on the ladder, got fitter, had fun and met a lovely lady who became my best friend.
I even named one of my daughters after her, and we’re still good friends 28 years later! We still keep in contact, despite the fact that I now live in Sydney and she’s in London, thanks to email and Facebook.
That common interest at the beginning broke the ice, regular squash games cemented our friendship and the rest is history. Every time I’ve moved to a new city or country, I’ve found that sport (squash, tennis, golf or dance) has made it so much easier to find people I enjoy spending time with.
Start building healthy new relationships today!
So if you feel lonely, or are concerned that the relationships in your life aren’t as positive and healthy as you’d like, start doing something about it today!
Be brave and take that first step to making your life the one YOU want to live – enjoy happy, healthy relationships with like-minded people, and start having fun again.
Jane Jackson is a career management coach and corporate trainer specialising in building the confidence of executives who have experienced a redundancy or are at a crossroads in their careers. You can find out more about her work on her website.Jane Jackson