- Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
- Social relationships are good for us, and loneliness kills.
- Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains.
While the presentation is well-done, I have a few bones to pick about setting up the notion of happiness to rely chiefly on our outside relationships.
So often it is said that “relationships are the key to happiness,” and we begin to reflect upon our relations to others (friends, family, community, etc.). However, as we look deeper into the true nature of relationships, the connection between relationships and happiness is not that simple and may even be misleading. It is disingenuous to say that our suffering is caused by lack of availability or not having a relationship. A person may express self-pity and say that s/he is an only child and that both parents are dead. On the other hand, a person may have many siblings and living parents but chooses to be in touch with them rarely. Toxic relationships, such with as abusive parents or a spouse, may actually cause suffering instead of happiness. A person’s misconstrued sense of being unwanted by others, may even lead to violent acts such as in the case of the infamous Columbine High School massacre.
Mindfulness practice emphasizes a person's internal capacity for and cultivation of well-being. When a person succeeds in improving his/her relationship with himself/herself, such as removal of destructive emotions or attitudes, then his or her relationship with others will naturally improve with ease.
Suppose you know a person who has a tendency to be impatient, an example of a destructive emotion. Notice how this quality plays out to affect that person's well-being as well as its impact on others. Impatience breeds a lack of tolerance, an agitated mind, and an energy that is not peaceful in nature. The impatient person is usually high-strung, easily agitated, and hot-headed. Inside the person’s body, the heart pounds and there is tension whenever temper flares up. People around this person often feel unsafe, disrespected, not heard, and offended. As a response to the disturbance they feel, others guard against attack and prepare for possible retaliation by the impatient one. Thus a tendency toward impatience causes unproductive and even harmful relationships all around and inside.
But positive change is possible. We have the potential to rewire ourselves for better, happier relationships. The impatient person may eradicate impatience by realizing its unproductive nature. A person’s commitment to understanding the benefits of being patient, then consciously cultivating the practice of being patient, can shift the entire nexus of relationships (with self and others) to be peaceful and more productive.
In addition, through Mindfulness practice, we can develop inner strength and peace to the point of self-sufficiency with regard to our ability to cultivate inner happiness. We learn to rely less on what or how other people treat us and enjoy going inside to find solace.
No doubt, peaceful, supportive, loving relationships bring us joy. However, our true happiness relies more on our cultivation of inner skills than outer relationships.