Day 3: Building relationships
Welcome to day 3 of the happiness course. I am very thankful that you choose to embark this journey of self discovery with me.
Buddhism teachings suggest that everything is interconnected. There is nothing more true. Countless psychological researches found strong links between relationships and happiness. In nature there is no, not even one, plant or animal that can survive entirely on its own. We all need others in our lives to give us support. As we grow and evolve we are more able to also support others, either financially or emotionally. There are many benefits of being connected to others, first of all we can share useful information, secondly, it is scientifically demonstrated that interactions boost self esteem. We humans are programmed to connect with others. As German psychologist Jaap Denissen correctly pointed out, in certain situations staying with one's group can even be a matter of life and death  .
If you're currently in a tough relationship with someone, I want you to take a step back and think. Give yourself space to think over carefully. Are these fights, screaming matches and arguments really what they are? Or are these desperate actions to get your love and attention?
Your presence and support can mean a lot to the people around you. Does it sound surprising to you that the more love a person receives the less aggressive he or she becomes? We see it in ourselves and others, when we feel loved and treasured we are less sarcastic and show less passive aggressive behaviors. And psychologists agree with our observations too. A recent scientific study has found that parental support is the best predictor of lower aggression and fewer behavioral problems for teenage girls .
Imagine that starting from today we no longer walk around with all the emotional baggage we are so used to dragging around. Imagine we can give others our attention and love. Imagine how much difference it would make to others when they know that you really care. Some of us withhold our love because of past grudges. If you feel that your partner, parents or sibling had mistreated you and you believe you can't achieve certain things in life because they took away your self esteem and treated you harshly in the past, let me tell you one thing. We must understand that our memory is not that reliable. Our "bad" memories may not be so bad at all and things are not as unrepairable as it may seems.
Psychologists found that many of our memories are false. Every time we recall a memory - pleasant or otherwise - we add something in and also take away parts of it. There is no such thing as photographic memory as our emotions affect memories. Interestingly, it is when we are happy that we create the most false memories. There is a constant gap what really happened and what we remembered.
I argue that any relationship is symbiotic. In order to receive love and attention we must also give the other person the same.
One of the most amazing things about human personality is that we are constantly evolving. Our personalities are partly determined by genes, they are also partly determined by our own experiences and learning. Even if you're born an introvert, you can still acquire the skills and behavior to make yourself a people magnet. Even if you feel lonely, isolated and depressed, there are things that you can do today to build meaningful lasting relationships.
Let me remind you a fact: No one lives forever. There is no exception to this rule. Whether you're the President of the United States, a successful business executive, a stay at home mum, a star athlete or a criminal, it doesn't matter. Whether you are happy or unhappy, this law applies to you the same way it applies to everyone else. Do you want to die angry and lonely? Or do you want a future that is secured, happy and filled with joy?
Exercise: Reconnect with an old friend - anyone - by email.
Self-esteem reactions to social interactions: Evidence for sociometer mechanisms across days, people, and nations
Denissen, Jaap J. A.; Penke, Lars; Schmitt, David P.; van Aken, Marcel A. G.; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 95(1), Jul 2008. pp. 181-196.
Gender differences in the relationship between perceived social support and student adjustment during early adolescence.
Rueger, Sandra Yu; Malecki, Christine Kerres; Demaray, Michelle Kilpatrick; School Psychology Quarterly, Vol 23(4), Dec 2008. pp. 496-514.