A warm, loving, nurturing relationship is a healthy thing. In such a relationship there is laughter, connection, intimacy, communication and fun. These qualities can reduce stress, reduce anxiety and depression, improve quality of life and cause the body to produce endorphins: hormones that make us feel good and even reduce pain.
If a good relationship can contribute to our health, what happens if the relationship is not good. Of course there are variations depending on how negative the relationship is, and how much involvement there is; whether it is a spouse or immediate family member, extended family, a boss or colleague or a neighbor.
A negative relationship creates stress. It may also result in depression, anxiety, feelings of anger, sadness, or loneliness. Here, rather than good chemicals, the body produces stress hormones. In fact, studies have shown that after an angry or upsetting episode, the immune system is suppressed for six to eight hours! If another incident happens, or even re-living it as we tell someone about it, then the immune system suppressed for a further six to eight hours.
It is clear that if our relationship with someone in our lives is conflicted, we could be in an almost constant state of immune system suppression. We may not experience effects of this right away, but over time we may be vulnerable to a variety of health issues.
We need to think of stress, negativity, anger and conflict as things that are toxic to our bodies. We would not breathe or ingest substances we knew to be toxic to our bodies. Similarly, we should also practice ecology in our emotional environment. If the situation or interactions cannot be changed to create a more positive emotional climate, it may be time to make a move.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca