By Health Coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness, Suzy Glaskie.
When things are tough for us, our inclination might be to plaster on a smile, pretend that everything is hunky-dory and crack on as normal – while inside we are silently screaming.
We might be worried that other people will judge us as weak if we allow ourselves to appear vulnerable – if we let others see the cracks. But opening up is exactly what will help us to feel better. Wearing a mask and papering over our true feelings is incredibly stressful to maintain. It leaves us feeling even more isolated and alone as we soldier on and try to ignore how we really feel.
The simple act of talking openly to another person is incredibly healing. That process of sharing brings with it a world of comfort, insight and relief. If you’ve ever had that experience of a weight lifting from your shoulders, you’ll know what I mean. It’s important to choose someone who you trust: someone who will hold a safe, non-judgemental space for you without interrupting you or bowling in with their own stories.
You too can be that listening ear for someone. All you need is an interest in what the other person is saying and your wholehearted attention. When someone is really listened to, they naturally just open up and share what is going on for them. You don’t need to be trained as a counsellor to listen to someone. You don’t need to offer solutions – in fact, it’s usually better if you don’t. Very often, the mere process of sharing our troubles gives us the headspace to figure out for ourselves what we need to do next.
Human beings are not like polar bears. We don’t do well cut off from others. We all have an innate need to connect with other humans and to be heard. But, in our 24/7 world, where one hand is constantly stretching towards our iPhone, real listening is a vanishingly scarce resource. And that is to our great detriment. Because a mountain of research points to the negative effects on our physical health when we feel isolated or unacknowledged or ignored. And that’s without even touching on the damage it does to our emotional wellbeing.
There’s so much focus these days on the role of diet and exercise in our health – and rightly so. But, amidst all that advice to eat kale and do interval training, the vital role of human relationships often gets overlooked. The truth is that the quality of our relationships dictates our level of happiness and has a massive impact on our mental, emotional and physical health.
An authentic, warm human connection is nothing less than medicine. And it doesn’t just have to be with your partner, family or friends. Many of us have found our closest, most mutually supportive relationships at work. Whether it’s a chat over the coffee machine, a phone call or Skype chat, don’t underestimate the power of simple, free, good old-fashioned talking.
Ask yourself who you can open up to this week. You might be surprised just how much lighter you feel afterwards.